Gut microbiome: meet Lactobacillus acidophilus – the gut health superhero

<span class="caption">Eating yoghurt is one way of getting more _Lactobacillus acidophilus_ into your diet.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link " href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Josep Suria/ Shutterstock;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas">Josep Suria/ Shutterstock</a></span>

Your gut is like a bustling city of trillions of microscopic inhabitants – including bacteria. While some of these bacterial inhabitants are villains, causing illness, infection and disease, others are good – supporting our health and keeping things running smoothly.

But one species of bacterium in our gut is so good and does so much for our health, that it might well be compared to a gut superhero. This microbe goes by the name of Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Lactobacillus acidophilus might sound like a mouthful, but don’t let its long name intimidate you. In simple terms, it’s a tiny bacterium that belongs to a group of microorganisms known for their probiotic properties – meaning it provides health benefits when consumed in adequate quantities.

This microbe hangs out in your gut (mainly your small intestine) and helps keep things running smoothly. In fact, Lactobacillus acidophilus has an incredible number of important functions.

It acts as a digestion buddy, munching on things you can’t digest entirely – such as certain sugars and fibres. For example, it helps digest foods rich in lactose (such as dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese), as well as fermentable carbohydrates found in vegetables, fruits and grains. By doing so, it helps break down your food, making it easier for your body to absorb nutrients.

Since your gut is a delicate ecosystem, Lactobacillus acidophilus plays a crucial role in maintaining the right balance of bacteria by preventing harmful bacteria from taking over and causing trouble.

This microbe also strengthens your body’s defence system. It does this by helping your immune cells communicate better and stay alert so they’re ready to fight off invaders.

And when your stomach is upset or you’re stressed, Lactobacillus acidophilus is the microbe that comes to the rescue, soothing irritation and helping ease digestive discomfort.

A man holds his stomach in pain.

All of these important functions mean Lactobacillus acidophilus is a true friend to your body, and its affects on your health are pretty impressive, with benefits such as:

Given all the important roles that Lactobacillus acidophilus plays in your health, if you’re keen to fill your gut with this microbe you can find it in tasty fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir.

A deeper look

Even though we know a lot about Lactobacillus acidophilus, there’s still much to explore. Scientists are currently digging deeper to understand whether there are different strains of this microbe – and if each of these strains have unique abilities.

Scientists are also working on tailoring probiotics to a person’s specific needs. Imagine having a personalised probiotic superhero designed just for you. People with inflammatory bowel disease, weakened immune systems, allergies and mental health concerns may benefit from personalised products containing probiotic strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, because of the benefits it may have for these issues.

And finally, researchers are continuing to investigate the link between gut health and the brain – with scientists taking a particular interest in investigating how specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus might influence mood and mental wellbeing.

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a tiny but mighty superhero in your gut, working hard to keep you healthy and happy. So the next time you enjoy a yogurt or sip on some kefir, think of it as giving your friendly gut superhero a high-five.

This article is part of Meet Your Gut Microbes, a series about the rich constellation of bacteria, viruses, archaea and fungi that live in people’s digestive tracts. Scientists are increasingly realising their importance in shaping our health – both physical and mental. Each week we will look at a different microbe and bring you the most up-to-date research on them.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.