The ‘friendly’ bacteria called acidophilus help to create a healthy environment within the gastrointestinal tract. Taking acidophilus may combat digestive disorders, control vaginal yeast infections and help the body to resist diseases caused by ‘unfriendly’ bacteria. Acidophilus forms part of the ‘friendly bacteria” known as Probiotics.
What it is
Some 500 species of bacteria inhabit the digestive tract. Of these, the most beneficial are two strains of Lactobacilli bacteria: acidophilus and bifidus. Both are probiotics, meaning that they help to provide a proper balance of health-promoting bacteria in the intestine. They also manufacture natural antibiotics that kill dangerous microbes.
Foods that encourage the growth of lactobacillus in the body are green leafy vegetables (which contain chlorophyll); slippery elm powder and Jerusalem artichokes (containing fructo-oligosaccharides, or FOS); milk products such as yoghurt and whey powder; and miso and sauerkraut.
Yoghurt, the traditional source of acidophilus, has been used as an elixir in folk medicine for hundreds – possibly thousands – of years. it can be difficult, however, to determine how much acidophilus yoghurt really contains. When using supplements, read the labels arefully. A therapeutic form should contain at least 1 billion live organisms in each pill; smaller amounts may not be potent enough to have beneficial effects. Acidophilus is sometimes sold in combination with bifidus or fructo-oligosaccarides.
What it does
Acidophilus helps to restore a normal balance of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina, which combats digestive disorders and vaginal yeast infections. It may contain cancer-fighting agents, and may possibly lower serum cholesterol levels. Acidophilus also helps to manufacture certain vitamins in the intestines, including vitamins B12 and K, thiamine and folic acid.
Some studies show that, when taken orally or inserted into the vagina as a suppository or douche, acidophilus may prevent or control vaginal yeast infections caused by Candida albicans. This property is particularly helpful if you’re taking certain types of antibiotics that suppress acidophilus and allow yeast to flourish.
Indeed, acidophilus may be especially useful for anyone taking antiobiotics to treat an infection. In many people – and particularly those on antibiotics – the balance of bacteria can be upset, causing flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and poor absorption of nutrients. Acidophilus creats an inhospitable environment for harmful types of Esherichia coli, as well as for Salmonella, Streptococcus, and many other strains of bacteria that can be dangerous or even life-threatening.
Acidophilus can alleviate the symptom of inflammatory bowel disease, a chronic inflammation of the intestines. Along with a high-fibre diet, acidophilus contributes to overall colon health, which is necessary to help protect against diverticulosis, a disorder in which the mucous lining of the colon bulges into the colon wall and creates small sacs (diverticula). Acidophilus may also relieve diarrhoea triggered by irritable bowel syndrome and food poisoning, and may replenish beneficial intestinal micro-organisms that diarrhoea flushes out of the body.
Acidophilus may also be valuable in combating some cancers. When given to patients who had had surgery for bladder cancer, acidophilus helped to prevent the recurrence of single tumours. This may be because acidophilus prevent harmful bacteria from creating cancer-causing substances when the bacteria react with foods. It may also lower blood cholesterol levels, because certain strains of these bacteria absorb cholesterol in the intestine before it reaches the arteries and causes damage.
- Treat chronic gastrointestinal tract disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, recurrent wind and bloating, and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Controls vaginal yeast infections.
How to take it
To make a vaginal douche: Mix 2 teaspoons of acidophilus/bifidus powder in 1 litre of warm water; use twice a day for up to 10 days to restore normal bacteria growth.
To promote intestinal health: Mix acidophilus/bifidus powder in water and drink; see label for exact dosage. In capsule form, take one or two, each containing at least 1 billion live organisms, one to three times daily. For other forms, follow label directions.
Guidelines for use
Douche only to treat vaginal yeast infections, or when you are taking antibiotics. When using acidophilus orally, take it 30-60 minutes before eating. If you’re on antibiotics, don’t take them at the same time of the day as acidophilus. Keep taking acidophilus for six to eight weeks after you finish the antibiotics.
Possible side effects
Ingested in large quantities, acidophilus may cause diarrhoea or other gastrointestinal problems. Prolonged douching can irritate the vagina; this can be corrected by reducing the concentration of acidophilus.
If you have a vaginal infection for the first time, see your health care professional before treating it yourself. Acidophilus is useful against this yeast Candida albicans, but has little effect on other types of vaginal problems.