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Lactobacillus

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What other names is Lactobacillus known by?

Acidophilus, Acidophilus Bifidus, Acidophilus Lactobacillus, L. Acidophilus, L. Amylovorus, L. Brevis, L. Bulgaricus, L. Casei Immunitas, L. Casei, L. Crispatus, L. Delbrueckii, L. Fermentum, L. Gallinarum, L. Helveticus, L. Johnsonii, L. Johnsonii LC-1, L. Lactis, L. Plantarum, L. Reuteri, L. Rhamnosus, L. Salivarius, L. Sporogenes, Lacto Bacillus, Lactobacille, Lactobacilli, Lactobacilli Acidophilus, Lactobacilli Bulgaricus, Lactobacilli Plantarum, Lactobacilli Rhamnosus, Lactobacilli Salivarium, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus amylovorus, Lactobacillus brevis, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus casei sp. rhamnosus, Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, Lactobacillus delbrueckii ssp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus gallinarum, Lactobacillus Gasseri, Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus Helveticus, Lactobacillus johnsonii, Lactobacillus Lactis, Lactobacillus Paracasei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus sakei, Lactobacillus Salivarium, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus sporogenes, Lactobacilo, Lactospores, LC-1, Probiotics, Probiotiques.

What is Lactobacillus?

Lactobacillus is a type of bacteria. There are lots of different species of lactobacillus. These are "friendly" bacteria that normally live in our digestive, urinary, and genital systems without causing disease. Lactobacillus is also in some fermented foods like yogurt and in dietary supplements.

Lactobacillus is used for treating and preventing diarrhea, including infectious types such as rotaviral diarrhea in children and traveler's diarrhea. It is also used to prevent and treat diarrhea associated with using antibiotics.

Some people use lactobacillus for general digestion problems; irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); colic in babies; Crohn's disease; inflammation of the colon; and a serious gut problem called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in babies born prematurely. Lactobacillus is also used for infection with Helicobacter pylori, the type of bacteria that causes ulcers, and also for other types of infections including urinary tract infections (UTIs), vaginal yeast infections, to prevent the common cold in adults, and to prevent respiratory infections in children attending daycare centers. It is also being tested to prevent serious infections in people on ventilators.

Lactobacillus is used for skin disorders such as fever blisters, canker sores, eczema (allergic dermatitis); and acne.

It is also used for high cholesterol, lactose intolerance, Lyme disease, hives, and to boost the immune system.

Women sometimes use lactobacillus suppositories to treat vaginal infections and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

There are concerns about the quality of some lactobacillus products. Some products labeled to contain Lactobacillus acidophilus actually contain no lactobacillus acidophilus, or they contain a different strain of lactobacillus such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Some products are contaminated with "unfriendly" bacteria.

Likely Effective for...

  • Diarrhea in children caused by a certain virus (rotavirus). Children with rotaviral diarrhea who are being treated with lactobacillus seem to get over their diarrhea about a half day earlier than they would without this treatment. Larger doses of lactobacillus are more effective than smaller ones. At least 10 billion colony-forming units during the first 48 hours should be used.

Possibly Effective for...

  • Preventing diarrhea in children caused by antibiotics. Giving children Lactobacillus GG (Culturelle) along with antibiotics seems to reduce the diarrhea that children sometimes experience when taking antibiotics alone.
  • Preventing diarrhea in hospitalized adults. Drinking a specific beverage containing Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Streptococcus thermophilus (Actimel, Danone) twice daily during antibiotic treatment and for a week afterwards significantly decreases the risk of developing diarrhea.
  • Preventing diarrhea due to traveling. Traveler's diarrhea is caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites that the traveler has not been exposed to before. Taking a specific strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus GG (Culturelle) seems to help prevent diarrhea in travelers. The effectiveness of Lactobacillus GG can vary a lot depending on the travel destination because of differences in bacteria in different locations.
  • Preventing diarrhea due to cancer treatment (chemotherapy). A chemotherapy drug called 5-fluorouracil can cause severe diarrhea and other gastrointestinal (GI) side effects. There is some evidence that patients with cancer of the colon or rectum have less severe diarrhea, less stomach discomfort, shorter hospital care, and require fewer chemotherapy dose reductions due to GI side effects when they take a particular strain of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus GG (Culturelle).
  • Colic in babies. Taking a specific Lactobacillus reuteri product (Probiotic Drops, BioGaia AB) 100 million CFUs once daily for 21-28 days reduces daily crying time in nursing infants. Taking this Lactobacillus reuteri product seems to be more effective than using the drug simethicone.
  • Lung infections. Children ages 1 to 6 years who attend daycare centers seem to get fewer and less severe lung infections when given milk containing lactobacillus GG or a specific combination product containing both Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium (HOWARU Protect).
  • Treating a bowel condition called ulcerative colitis. Some research suggests that taking a specific combination product containing lactobacillus, bifidobacteria, and streptococcus might improve symptoms. Taking lactobacillus also seems to help treat chronic pouchitis, a complication of surgery for ulcerative colitis. Continuous treatment for one year with a specific concentrated formulation of lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, and streptococcus (VSL#3) seems to help most patients.
  • Treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There is some research showing that certain strains of lactobacillus, but not others, can improve symptoms of IBS such as bloating, and stomach pain.
  • Treating vaginal infections caused by bacteria (bacterial vaginosis). Clinical research shows certain strains of Lactobacillus might help treat bacterial vaginosis when applied inside the vagina. Researchers have found Lactobacillus acidophilus suppositories (Vivag, Pharma Vinci A/S, Denmark) and vaginal tablets (Gynoflor, Medinova, Switzerland) may be effective. Researchers also found that vaginal capsules Lactobacillus gasseri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, seem to lengthen the time between infections.
  • Treating and preventing eczema (atopic dermatitis) in infants and children who are allergic to cow's milk. A combination of freeze-dried Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri seems to reduce eczema symptoms in children ages 1 to 13 years.
  • Helping prescription medications treat Helicobacter pylori (H pylori) infection, which causes stomach ulcers.
  • Treating diarrhea caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile.

Possibly Ineffective for...

  • Vaginal yeast infections after taking antibiotics. There is evidence that taking lactobacillus by mouth or eating yogurt enriched with lactobacillus doesn't prevent vaginal yeast infections after antibiotics. However, women with yeast infections who use vaginal suppositories containing 1 billion live Lactobacillus GG bacteria twice daily for 7 days in combination with conventional treatment often report their symptoms improve.
  • Crohn's disease.
  • Lactose intolerance.
  • Reducing symptoms of too much bacteria in the intestines.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs). There is some preliminary evidence that vaginal use of some Lactobacillus species might be helpful for preventing UTIs, but not all studies have agreed.
  • General digestion problems.
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in babies born prematurely.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Sensitivity to milk (lactose-intolerance).
  • Lyme disease.
  • Hives.
  • Fever blisters.
  • Canker sores.
  • Acne.
  • Cancer.
  • Boosting the immune system.
  • Common cold.
  • Preventing infections in people on ventilators.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate lactobacillus for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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