$64.99 64.990000000 (ex. tax)
Acidophilus is probably the most well-known and well-used species of ‘friendly’ bacteria, so for those considering a probiotic supplement, they might be under the impression that this is the best option for them. (Read more about probiotics). However, first, it’s important to understand what acidophilus actually is and to distinguish between acidophilus and other kinds of probiotic.
Acidophilus is a species of bacteria from the Lactobacillus genus: its full name is written as Lactobacillus acidophilus, sometimes abbreviated to L. acidophilus. It is a naturally-occurring bacteria found in the gut, mouth and vagina and has been incredibly well-researched in studies focusing on a number of different areas of health. Due to its numerous health benefits L. acidophilus is commonly found in probiotic supplements, such as our own.
Within the acidophilus ‘species’, there are a large number of specific ‘strains’ (types) of bacteria. One example is Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®, which is thought to be one of the most widely researched strains of probiotic in the world, and certainly the most extensively researched strain of L. acidophilus.
You can find this strain in our Every Day EXTRA and Every Day MAX. Other L. acidophilus superstars include Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52 (in our Every Day, For travelling abroad and For Those On Antibiotics), Lactobacillus acidophilus La-05®, and Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14® (in our Pregnancy).
*Acidophilus is a species of bacteria that sits within the Lactobacillus genus. Within the species there are many different individual ‘strains’.
Many of the benefits of a probiotic are dependent on the specific strain used. Only a few characteristics are common to all strains within a species. This section looks at those characteristics that are shared across all bacteria from the Lactobacillus acidophilus species.
L. acidophilus is a species of lactic acid-producing bacteria. Once they have colonised the gut, they ferment carbohydrates and sugars and produce lactic and acetic acids as by-products. These acids lower the pH of the intestines, which protects us from pathogen over-growth, and favours the proliferation of ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut. In this way, acidophilus is beneficial in maintaining a healthy balance of gut flora.
L. acidophilus bacteria prefer to use sugars as their fermentation substrate. This means that they break down sugars as they pass through our intestine. One amazing acidophilus benefit is to people that have certain food intolerances. Where they lack sufficient digestive enzymes to break down components of their food, such as lactose (a sugar found in milk and dairy products) – the bacteria can do it for them.
Beyond these characteristics, which are common to all bacteria within the acidophilus species, most of the known benefits of L. acidophilus are found at ‘strain’ level. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® has very different characteristics and health benefits to Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14®. This is described in more detail later on in this article.
*Research into the best acidophilus supplement to take for a specific health condition or symptom, should be carried out at strain level.
As already mentioned, many of the benefits of Lactobacillus acidophilus are held at individual ‘strain’ level. For example L. acidophilus NCFM is known to reduce occasional abdominal bloating. But, let’s take a look at how their ‘shared’ characteristics can benefit our health:
L. acidophilus as a species of bacteria may help to restore the balance of ‘good’ vs ’bad’ bacteria in both the gut and the vagina. They do this by taking up space on the lining of the digestive (or vaginal) tract which effectively prevents ‘bad’ bacteria such as E.coli from colonising and causing symptoms. By competing for both space and nutrients with these unfavourable bacteria, they make it harder for them to over-growand disrupt the healthy balance of gut flora.
L. acidophilus as a species are known to secrete certain acids, such as lactic acid. By doing so they are able to lower the pH of the intestines (or vagina), which discourages bad bacteria from proliferating, and maintains a healthy gut (or vaginal) environment.
L. acidophilus, along with other probiotic species, are also known to support digestion by producing different digestive enzymes that help us to break down our food more efficiently. This can help with food intolerances such as lactose intolerance and their related symptoms.
*The ability to favourably alter the pH of their external environment, coupled with their ability to produce digestive enzymes makes bacteria from the acidophilus species a popular choice for probiotic supplements.
To recap, all strains of L. acidophilus are part of the genus (or ‘family’) of lactic-acid-producing bacteria called Lactobacillus.
Species and strains from this genus tend to be the most widely used in probiotic supplements due to their versatile nature. But not all strains have the same properties. For this reason, when looking at supplements, it is best to compare them at strain level, as opposed to merely species or genus level.
Below are some examples of individual strains of L. acidophilus. The unique properties that they each possess dictates how they are best used, and which areas of health they best support.
Gut health – many strains of L. acidophilus have been clinically trialled for their efficacy in supporting various different aspects of gut health. For example, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® has been shown in trials to reduce the pain and bloating associated with IBS1, to reduce diarrhoea2 in children, and to reduce the symptoms associated with lactose intolerance3.
Whereas Lactobacillus acidophilus LA-05® has proved effective at alleviating constipation in elderly patients4 (when used alongside another strain: Bifidobacteria lactis BB-12®), and also reducing inflammation and symptoms in Ulcerative Colitis patients5.
Immune support – with 70% of our immune cells being located in the gut, it is perhaps little wonder that the health of our gut flora impacts on our immunity. Certain strains of live cultures have been shown to support our immune system, and reduce the likelihood of picking up transmissible infections.
Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52® for example, was seen to reduce the incidence of gastric disorders,ear-nose-throat (ENT) or bronchopulmonary infections by 25% in school-age children, and reduce the number of days they were absent from school by 40%6.
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® has also demonstrated its ability to increase circulating antibodies in the blood of healthy adults following vaccination7, and reduce the incidence of cold symptoms, in children8.
Mental health – research has shown that the health of the microbiome impacts on our emotional and mental health. To this end, many strains of friendly bacteria have been used in clinical trials to assess their impact on various mood disorders. Out of the ‘acidophilus’ species of bacteria, Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52® is one strain that has shown good effect, in both anxiety9 and depression10.
Antibiotic use – certain strains of bacteria have been trialled for their effectiveness at either reducing the side-effects when taking a course of antibiotics, or rebuilding the health of the microbiome after completing a course.
Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52® when taken in conjunction with Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11 has proven effective against developing antibiotic-associated diarrhoea11.
Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®, taken in conjunction with Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07®, has shown its effectiveness at stabilising the gut microbiota following antibiotic treatment12.
Vaginal Health – a healthy vaginal microflora is heavily dominated by bacteria from the Lactobacillus genus. Many different species and strains of bacteria from within this genus have been used in clinical trials in an attempt to improve vaginal health parameters.
One such strain is: Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14®. When used alongside Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN00113, this strain was seen to significantly reduce vaginal discharge and symptoms of Bacterial Vaginosis (BV).
*Different strains within the same species have different modes of action in the body, so it is important to find the strain that is most suitable for you.
Healthcare practitioners can find out more about L. acidophilus on the Probiotics Database, on Probiotic Professionals.
This really depends on what is meant by ‘best’! In terms of suitability, it’s a case of finding the right strain to suit you, and your own specific health requirements, which can involve a bit of searching.
However, there are a few key ways to ensure that the supplement in question is of high quality.
*Do your research before buying a probiotic supplement. Choose strains that meet your own individual health needs, whilst also satisfying the above quality criteria.
One of the most highly researched strains of acidophilus is Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM®, which can be found in our supplements Every Day EXTRA and Every Day MAX, both of which satisfy the above mentioned product quality criteria.
This question is a little tricky to answer, as different health symptoms require not only different strains of acidophilus, but potentially different acidophilus dosages. As a general rule, I would advise following the clinical trial data as closely as possible. So, if a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial shows efficacy for supporting a condition or symptom that is of relevance to you, I would recommend taking as close to the same daily dosage that was used in the trial as you can. Wherever possible our acidophilus probiotics are formulated in this way too, using data and dosage information from the most efficacious clinical trials.
The probiotic acidophilus is ‘cultured’ or in other words, grown, in a laboratory. The bacteria are then extracted and usually freeze-dried for preservation. Probiotics come in different ‘formats’, and how you prefer to take your daily dose is a personal choice. You can choose from acidophilus powders, acidophilus tablets, acidophilus capsules and even acidophilus in liquid format. The majority of products on the market are in capsule format, as these are generally found to be easier to swallow than tablets, and have better shelf-stability, and less risk of contamination than loose powders (powders portioned in to individual sachets also avoid the risks associated with loose, bottled powders).
Some manufacturers of probiotics use enterically coated capsules, which are said to protect the bacteria inside them from the harsh acidic conditions of the stomach. We, however, use robust strains of friendly bacteria that are known to survive at a low pH anyway, so we have no need for enteric coating. This means that our capsules can be opened, and the contents sprinkled on to food or drinks (so long as they are not hot or too acidic) with no loss to product integrity. Even if you open up our acidophilus capsule in this way, you can still be sure that the bacteria will survive and you are getting the full dose. You may like to read the following FAQ: Can I open probiotic capsules?
*Different conditions may require different probiotic doses, where possible take a similar CFU (billions) count to that used in clinical trials into your specific health condition.
Having addressed the topic of acidophilus benefits, it is important to address this frequently asked question. In general probiotics, including those from the acidophilus species, have very few side effects. The majority of people do not experience any negative symptoms from taking an acidophilus supplement. However, everybody is different, and therefore everyone reacts to things differently.
With the introduction of any new probiotic supplement, some people may initially experience mild digestive symptoms, such as: bloating or excess gas. In most cases these symptoms do not last for longer than a few days, and are simply the result of a shift in microbial population and diversity. Mild acidophilus side-effects can simply be a sign that changes are taking place within the eco-system of the gut.
Whilst mild symptoms may be bothersome, they are for the most part, a positive sign that the ‘friendly’ bacteria are doing their ‘job’, crowding out pathogenic strains of bacteria and competing for space on the gut wall lining.
However, if any side effect becomes troubling, or lasts for longer than described, I would always recommend stopping taking the product and contacting the manufacturer for advice. It could be other ingredients in the product that are causing issues, such as a prebiotic fibre. Or, it could just be that the strain of acidophilus is not compatible with your individual microbiome at that time. Always listen to your own body, and respect its uniqueness.
*L. acidophilus may occasionally cause mild abdominal discomfort and/or bloating in some people, but this typically only lasts for a few days. If symptoms persist speak to the manufacturer for advice.
Read our FAQ ‘Do live cultures have side effects?’ to find out more.
This is a question that often crops up, but frustratingly there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer here either! With everyone’s microbiome being as unique to them as their fingerprint, it is impossible to know for certain how long it will take to feel the benefits of taking acidophilus supplements.
We receive wonderful feedback and product reviews from our customers. For some people our supplements have an almost instant effect, whereas for others it can take several weeks or more. It depends partly on the state of a persons’ health to start with and also their compliance with taking the product. Diet, lifestyle and any medications being taken are other factors to consider. In general, I would advise patience. The benefits are well worth it, and your health will thank you for it in the longer term.
*Everybody responds differently, and at different speeds, when starting a new probiotic supplement. Don’t be disappointed if results take a little while, they will be worth it in the longer term.
For further research in to L. acidophilus and specific strains within this species healthcare professionals might like to take a look at The Probiotics Database.
Authors: Dr Kate Stephens PhD Food and Microbial Sciences; Gut Microbiology (University of Reading), BSc Medical Microbiology
Reviewed by: Dr Aisling Dwyer MB BCh BAO (Medicine, Surgery and Obstetrics), MSc (Personalised Nutrition)
$64.99 64.990000000 (ex. tax)
$17.99 17.990000000 (ex. tax)
$19.99 19.990000000 (ex. tax)
$17.99 17.990000000 (ex. tax)