5 Incredible Health Benefits of Friendly Bacteria
1. Improve lactose digestion – Approximately 70% of the global population doesn’t produce lactase, an enzyme which is needed for lactose (milk sugar) digestion. Lactose intolerance often remains undiagnosed and can cause significant gut related and even wider health problems. Up to 10% of patients with IBS may simply have undiagnosed lactose intolerance. Fermented dairy products such as kefir, which contain naturally high levels of good bacteria, have been shown to improve lactose tolerance, likely due to the ability of friendly bacteria to produce lactase and help with lactose digestion. Probiotic supplementation with specific strains has also been shown to improve lactose digestion in those with lactose intolerance. In one study, the addition of high dose L. acidophilus NCFM® to milk was found to improve lactose digestion and reduce common symptoms of lactose intolerance including bloating, diarrhoea and gas in 9 out of 10 children with lactose intolerance.1
2. Prevent urinary tract infection (UTI) - Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in women and are associated with decreases in vaginal levels of friendly ‘Lactobacilli’ bacteria and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Lactobacilli are the dominant type of bacteria in the vaginal flora. Research has shown that L. acidophilus NCFM® may be a suitable probiotic strain for the prevention of UTIs in women.2 In another study, probiotic supplementation with Saccharomyces boulardii was found to be a useful support for the management of UTIs in children.3
3. Protect against bowel cancer - Some microbial enzymes are thought to promote the production of carcinogenic compounds, and a typical Western diet, high in animal protein and low in dietary fibre may actually increase the activity of these harmful enzymes. Three human trials have demonstrated the ability of L. acidophilus NCFM® to significantly reduce the activity of these enzymes at a daily dose of 10-100 billion bacteria.4-6
4. Blood sugar balance – If you’ve ever experienced a mid-afternoon sugar craving, you’ll know exactly what a blood sugar dip feels like. One of the less well known roles of the gut microbiome is to support the way the body handles sugar, ultimately leaving you with more balanced energy and less likely to crash (into a bar of chocolate!) from a blood sugar dip. According to animal research studies, the gut microbiome may have a significant influence on the way the body handles sugar, and a 2010 placebo-controlled human trial found that supplementation with L acidophilus NCFM® for 4 weeks supported blood sugar balance compared with placebo.7
5. Mood & brain function – The gut-brain axis has been a hot topic in recent months, and rightly so. We now know that the gut microbiome has a massive effect on pretty much every aspect of health, including how you think and feel, and we also know that there is a close relationship between gastrointestinal disorders such as IBS and psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. Research into this area is still in its infancy, however early findings are starting to show the potentially vast impact the gut microbiome has on mood and brain function. In a 2018 study, researchers concluded that increased gut bacteria diversity may help to improve patient’s mood.8
1. Montes RG, Bayless TM, Saavedra JM, Perman JA. Effect of milks inoculated with Lactobacillus acidophilus or a yoghurt starter culture in lactose-maldigesting children. J Dairy Sci. 1995 Aug;78(8):1657- 64.
2. Reid, G. 2000. In vitro analysis of a dairy strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM as a possible probiotic for the urogenital tract. Int. Dairy J. 10:415–419.
3. Akil I, Yilmaz O, Kurutepe S, Degerli K, Kavukcu S. Influence of oral intake of Saccharomyces boulardii on Escherichia coli in enteric flora. Pediatr Nephrol. 2006 Jun;21(6):807-10.
4. Goldin B.R., S.L. Gorbach. The effect of oral administration on Lactobacillus and antibiotics on intestinal bacterial activity and chemical induction of large bowel tumors. Dev Indust Microbiol 1984; 25:139-150.
5. Goldin B.R., L. Swenson, J. Dwyer, M. Sexton, S.L. Gorbach. Effect of diet and Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements on human fecal bacterial enzymes. J Natl Cancer Inst 1980; 64(2):255-261
6. Goldin B.R. and S.L. Gorbach. The effect of milk and Lactobacillus feeding on human intestinal bacterial enzyme activity. Am J Clin Nutr 1984; 39:756-761.
7. Andreasan AS, Larsen N et al. Effects of Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM on insulin sensitivity and the systematic inflammatory response in human subjects. Br J Nutr 2010 Dec; 104(12): 1831-8
8. Kurokawa S, Kishimoto T et al. The effect of fecal microbiota transplantation on psychiatric symptoms among patients with irritable bowel syndrome, functional diarrhoea and functional constipation: an open-label observational study. J Affect Disord. 2018 Apr 12;235-506-512.
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