Lactobacillus acidophilus, commonly referred to simply as acidophilus, is a friendly inhabitant of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. It, as well as some related strains of bacteria, is known as a probiotic. Probiotic organisms secrete enzymes that support healthy digestion. They keep the flora of the intestines and vagina balanced, and compete with some pathogenic organisms. When the probiotic population of the body is severely decreased, as can occur with treatment by many antibiotics, yeasts and harmful bacteria may take over and cause illness. Normal and healthy amounts of acidophilus can also be decreased by chronic diarrhea, stress, infections, and poor diet.
The species of Lactobacilli that inhabit the GI tract cause an increase of acidity. The bacteria do this by producing lactic acid from milk sugar (lactose). The increased acidity may promote the absorption of calcium, as well as of some other minerals. Lowered pH also discourages the growth of many pathogenic species of bacteria and yeasts. The hydrogen peroxide produced by the acidophilus also helps to suppress pathogens.
Acidophilus may function in the production of some of the B vitamins, such as niacin, pyridoxine, biotin, and folic acid.
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