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Ever seen those commercials where people eat yogurt to regulate their digestive system? There are reasons yogurt is touted as a health food, and Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) is one of them.

L. acidophilus is a type of “helpful” bacteria found naturally in the body, usually in the:

  • intestines
  • mouth
  • female genitals

It’s considered useful for human health purposes because it doesn’t cause disease. It also produces vitamin K and lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the sugars in milk products.

Lactobacillus is a popular probiotic. Probiotics are live bacteria that help the body absorb nutrients and maintain the right balance of helpful bacteria. They’ve been used to treat several medical conditions, like:

However, not every type of bacteria does the same thing. Different strains have different health benefits.

When yogurt is made, manufacturers use these live cultures, or probiotics, to make the milk thicker and give it the well-known sour taste associated with yogurt.

Some antibiotic treatments kill good bacteria along with the infectious bacteria they’re meant to destroy. This may cause unpleasant symptoms, such as an upset stomach.

Taking probiotics can also help to restore the good bacteria and reduce these symptoms.

Heart health

A few different types of probiotics, including L. acidophilus, may be beneficial to heart health.

Research has shown that eating yogurt with these probiotics may help to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol.

Lactose intolerance

People who are lactose intolerant are told to avoid dairy. Yogurt is usually the only exception to the rule. This is because yogurt has less lactose than milk and other dairy products.

L. acidophilus is one of the probiotics in yogurt that’s responsible for reducing the lactose, making it easier for the body to digest.

Yeast infections

Since L. acidophilus is naturally found in the vagina, eating yogurt with the probiotic is sometimes recommended for women who frequently get yeast infections.

Researchers believe that eating yogurt to replace good bacteria could help maintain the correct balance and keep yeast from overgrowing.

Some studies have found that consuming probiotics daily may help to prevent yeast and other bacterial infections.

L. acidophilus can be present in different styles of yogurt, from regular to frozen to Greek.

To find out if a particular yogurt has L. acidophilus, check the ingredient label. The bacteria should be listed.

Here are some common brands that have L. acidophilus:

In order to help people differentiate between brands containing live cultures and those that don’t, the National Yogurt Association (NYA) has created a “live and active cultures” seal.

Manufacturers must provide NYA with lab evidence that their refrigerated products contain at least 100 million cultures per gram, and that frozen products have at least 10 million cultures per gram at the time of production.

However, since NYA is not a regulatory organization, it’s still a good idea to check the ingredient list to see which specific probiotics are included in the yogurt you’re planning to purchase.

Additionally, not all manufacturers register with NYA, some may choose to simply list the types of bacteria and numbers on the ingredients list or create their own label.

Yogurt isn’t the only place to get your fix. L. acidophilus can also be found in some fermented foods, such as:

  • cheese
  • soy products (miso and tempeh)
  • fermented pickles

Please note that pickles made with vinegar (most pickles you find at the grocery store) don’t contain probiotics. If you want fermented pickles, look in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

Did you know?
  1. Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus) produces vitamin K, which is important for bone strength and blood clotting.
  2. It produces lactase, which breaks down the sugars in dairy.
  3. It functions as a probiotic, balancing your internal bacterial population.