One of the reasons why yogurt is such a healthy snack is that it contains beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Lactobacillus acidophilus, commonly known simply as acidophilus, is one of those healthy bacteria found in yogurt. But what is acidophilus, and what does it do for your body? The many acidophilus benefits include treating diarrhea, lowering cholesterol, and fighting vaginal infections.
What is acidophilus?
Lactobacillus acidophilus is one type of lactic acid bacteria, which are bacteria that feed on sugars in foods and that produce lactic acid as the end product of the fermentation process.
Acidophilus is commonly found in fermented milk products like yogurt or kefir, as well as in things like tempeh and miso.
Lactic acid bacteria like acidophilus are some of the most common types of bacteria used as probiotics (bacteria that are used for their health-promoting qualities).
This is because taking acidophilus, or eating acidophilus-rich foods like yogurt, can help to colonize your digestive tract with these beneficial bacteria. Boosting the probiotic community in your body can help heal your gut and lead to a whole host of beneficial effects, like enhancing immune system activity, fighting inflammation, preventing infection, and promoting healthy digestion.[1,2]
So what are some of the specific, research-based acidophilus benefits?
Acidophilus has numerous health benefits
Acidophilus has far-ranging effects in the body. Some of its benefits include:
- Treating diarrhea. Probiotics are often used to treat diarrhea, and acidophilus is one of the effective types to choose. It has been shown to help the absorption of electrolytes in the gastrointestinal tract, which is one way that it can help manage diarrhea. In children, a probiotic-rich yogurt containing acidophilus reduced the incidence of diarrhea associated with antibiotic use. It can also help treat specific causes of diarrhea, such as from infection with Clostridium difficile.
- Fighting vaginal infections. Both oral ingestion and local application of acidophilus probiotics can help fight vaginal infections. Studies also show that acidophilus increases vaginal cell proliferation and viability, helping to create a healthy environment, which may help increase resistance to pathogens. Eating yogurt with acidophilus can help colonize the vagina with this bacteria, and this may be related to reduced episodes of bacterial vaginosis.While there is some controversial evidence, one review found that most studies show positive effects from acidophilus use in the prevention and treatment of bacterial vaginosis. Local application of acidophilus is also used; in one study, for example, local application of the probiotic resulted in decreased symptoms of vaginal yeast infection and enhanced the effectiveness of treatment.
- Improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Acidophilus supplementation led to a 20% reduction in abdominal pain and discomfort in people with IBS compared to placebo.
- Lowering cholesterol. Eating acidophilus-rich fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir can also help lower cholesterol, studies suggest.[10,11] In one study, people with high cholesterol who took a probiotic with Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum saw significant reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels. In people with type 2 diabetes, 300 g of acidophilus-containing yogurt per day decreased the LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio.
Get more acidophilus through fermented milk products or probiotic supplements.
Keeping your gut stocked full of enough healthy bacteria like acidophilus will help fight off infections and maintain ideal overall health. Yogurt is a very healthy snack option; not only will it give you those live, bacterial cultures you are looking for, but it also has protein and is very versatile. Pair yogurt with fresh berries and nuts for a super healthy snack.
Kefir, miso, and tempeh are also great alternatives.
You can also opt for taking a probiotic supplement. Look for a high quality supplement containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and other lactobacilli strains for best results.
Read more about some of the various health benefits of probiotics here.
Share your experience
Do you take acidophilus or eat yogurt regularly? What health benefits have you noticed from doing so? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Originally published in 2015, this post has been updated.