Lactobacilli bacteria are one of the types of ‘friendly’ bacteria that live in our gut. They are called lactobacilli because they produce lactic acid (more on this below). Like other beneficial gut bacteria, we have a symbiotic relationship with them, meaning they are dependent on us and we are dependent on them.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is one species of lactobacilli bacteria. It’s the one that’s most familiar to most people – you’ve probably heard that ‘acidophilus’ is good for your digestion, even if you don’t know anything else about gut bacteria!
What do lactobacilli bacteria do?
Here are some of the roles that lactobacilli bacteria are thought to play in our gut:
- Aid digestion and absorption of nutrients. Their role may include helping to break down substances in our foods that bind to minerals1, so the minerals can be better absorbed. By generally supporting digestion, they may also help reduce digestive problems such as bloating and constipation.
- Help protect us against pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria. One of the primary ways harmful bacteria can get into our blood and cause infection is via our digestive tract. Friendly bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus may help protect us by helping to prevent the ‘bad guys’ attaching to the gut wall, and by producing substances that are harmful to pathogenic bacteria, such as lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide.
- Help to keep the gut lining healthy. It is our gut lining which allows us to absorb the nutrients our body needs, as well as prevent absorption of substances such as bacteria and toxins that can be harmful to our health.
- Support and balance our immune system. Around 70 to 80% of our body’s immune cells are found in and around the digestive tract – particularly in the small intestine. So the bacteria in our gut, including lactobacilli, come into very close contact with these immune cells, and are thought to have a direct effect on them, including activating immune cells to help fight infection2. They’re thought to have a balancing effect on the immune system, increasing its response where necessary, but also helping to stop over-reactions of the immune system to things that are harmless (e.g. allergic reactions).
- They could help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Lactobacillus bacteria, including some strains of Lactobacillus acidophilus, are thought to reduce cholesterol absorption into the blood3.
How can you get your friendly bacteria?
Lactobacillus acidophilus is found in fermented foods such as some natural live yoghurts, raw sauerkraut and kefir, a traditional fermented milk drink. Because it’s been very widely researched, L. acidophilus is also commonly used in live bacteria (‘probiotic’) supplements.
Ombar Raw Chocolate Bars with all the benefits of friendly bacteria:
Here’s the best bit: you can also get your L. acidophilus in chocolate too! We include Lactobacillus acidophilus as an ingredient in several of our bars, including Ombar 72% Raw, Ombar Coco Mylk, Ombar Coconut 60% and Ombar Strawberry Mylk. What better way to get some of those digestive, immune and even possibly heart-health benefits and treat yourself at the same time.
- Turpin W, Humblot C, Thomas M, Guyot JP. Lactobacilli as multifaceted probiotics with poorly disclosed molecular mechanisms. Int J Food Microbiol. 2010 Oct 15;143(3):87-102.
- Elawadli I et al. Differential effects of lactobacilli on activation and maturation of mouse dendritic cells. Benef Microbes. 2014 Sep;5(3):323-34.
- St-Onge MP et al. Consumption of fermented and nonfermented dairy products: effects on cholesterol concentrations and metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Mar;71(3):674-81.