What are the Different Uses for Lactobacillus Bacteria?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Bacteria in the genus Lactobacillus are found naturally in the intestinal tract and vagina, and they have a number of medical applications. Lactobacillus bacteria can be used as a supplement to conventional medicine or as a standalone alternative treatment. There is strong medical evidence to support some uses of this bacteria, particularly Lactobacillus acidophilus, and it can be a useful tool in the treatment of a variety of conditions.

Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is available in capsule form, helps to treat yeast infections.
Lactobacillus acidophilus, which is available in capsule form, helps to treat yeast infections.

One use for Lactobacillus bacteria is the treatment of vaginal and urinary tract infections. People can treat such infections by taking Lactobacillus supplements or by inserting suppositories. Some people simply use yogurt with live active cultures, rather than taking a supplement. A number of studies have provided evidence that Lactobacillus bacteria can be effective in the treatment of these types of infections.

Lactobacillus bacteria may help lactose intolerant people to consume dairy products.
Lactobacillus bacteria may help lactose intolerant people to consume dairy products.

Another reason to take Lactobacillus is to address a digestive problem. If the balance of the bacteria in the intestines is disturbed, people can experience symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and malnutrition. So-called "probiotics" or "good bacteria" can be introduced to the body to restore the balance. Lactobacillus bacteria can be used to treat specific outbreaks of diarrhea and other problems, to prevent digestive problems, or to supplement the diet after taking antibiotics to replace organisms that might have been killed off by courses of antibiotics.

A doctor can offer consultation on the use of Lactobacillus bacteria.
A doctor can offer consultation on the use of Lactobacillus bacteria.

These bacteria can also help break down lactose, as implied by their name. People with lactose intolerance can sometimes take Lactobacillus bacteria to allow them to eat some dairy products if advised to do so by a doctor. The bacteria are eaten shortly before consuming a meal that contains dairy. Other uses for Lactobacillus bacteria include the treatment of skin conditions and asthma, although there is less evidence to support these uses.

Some people eat yogurt instead of taking lactobacillus supplements.
Some people eat yogurt instead of taking lactobacillus supplements.

People can find Lactobacillus supplements in many health food stores and some big grocery stores. These bacteria are also found in yogurt and other cultured food products marked as containing live active cultures. People should take Lactobacillus bacteria with food and should follow the storage directions on the package carefully to ensure that the organisms are still active when they are used.

If using Lactobacillus does not resolve a condition, a doctor should be consulted. The doctor can provide a thorough evaluation and may make other treatment recommendations such as prescriptions for medications. People who are not sure about whether taking a probiotic supplement is appropriate should consult a doctor for advice.

Lactobacillus bacteria are found naturally in the intestinal tract.
Lactobacillus bacteria are found naturally in the intestinal tract.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Animandel

Sporkasia is on the mark regarding pickles containing the probiotic lactobacillus. The bacteria is able to live in salt water, which is used for preserving pickles. Other harmful organisms are killed by the salt water while the lactobacillus eat the sugar from the pickles, making the vegetables last longer.

Sporkasia
@Drentel: Yogurt is one of the most popular foods with lactobacillus bacteria, but there are others. Here are some that I have read about: cheese, cocoa, sauerkraut, pickles, beer, wine and cocoa.

I know some of these seem out of place, but as I remember it, the way certain foods are produced adds the friendly or probiotic bacteria. Most fermented foods provide a good starting point. I'm sure there are many more.

Drentel

According to the article, if you want to get more of the benefits provided my lactobacillus bateria and other probiotics then yogurt is a good food choice. Does anyone know of more options that might fall into this category of best lactobacillus or probiotic foods?

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