Question:

I have a question about gut health. How good are probiotics and is it safe to take Acidophilus every day? How does it help the body? Is it better than taking a laxative? Thanks!

– Myra

Answer:

I count lots of questions, so we’ll tackle them one at a time! 

1. Probiotics’ benefit: True probiotic microorganisms are very beneficial, provided that they are in adequate amounts of verified strains shown to have effect. That means certain probiotic sources/foods are good1, while others might be duds whose bacterial colonies simply don’t form significantly stable populations in the human gut2. The term “probiotic” is often misapplied to products.  

Positive effects on health may include immune stimulation, prevention of infection, promotion of regularity, relief of inflammatory bowel disease, cancer suppression, and modulation of brain activity, promoting mental wellness2,3. See www.USProbioticGuide.com for a list of commercial products and the level of evidence for their probiotic strains’ application in certain conditions. 

2. Acidophilus safety: Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of bacteria found in your intestines and in several fermented foods such as yogurt, keifer, sauerkraut and tempeh. As a supplement, daily consumption is considered generally safe1,4, but may contribute to constipation4 and other digestive complaints, so monitor for side effects. 

3. Acidophilus effectiveness: L. acidophilus supplementation may protect against traveler’s diarrhea, have anti-fungal activity, and prevent bacterial UTI and vaginal infections3,4. Those wishing to take this probiotic in supplement form should find one with at least one billion CFUs per serving 

References: 

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Probiotics: What You Need to Know.” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm August 22, 2019. Accessed 10.25.2019
  2. Fijan S. Microorganisms with claimed probiotic properties: an overview of recent literature. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014;11(5):4745–4767. Published 2014 May 5. doi:10.3390/ijerph110504745 
  3. Zawn Villines. “Is Lactobacillus acidophilus good for health?” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324194.php January 12, 2019. Accessed 10.25.2019  
  4. Mayo Clinic. “Acidophilus” www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-acidophilus/art-20361967 October 13, 2017. Accessed 10.25.2019

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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