Most of us have been prescribed antibiotics by doctors to “kill” bacteria in our bodies. Now we’ve realized that these antibiotics kill “good” bacteria too–the kind we need to stay healthy.

Normally, our bodies are full of good bacteria, especially in the intestines. More than 400 different kinds of bacteria live there in harmony. When they are killed by antibiotics it can lead to yeast and fungal overgrowths, chronic infections and allergies, fatigue, plain bad digestion and a host of other problems. Bad digestion is often the cause of bad breath, a sign of internal putrefaction.

On the other hand, when we have the right bacteria working for us, our bodies use proteins, fats and minerals to maximum capacity. Vitamins are synthesized more completely, especially the manufacture of vitamin B12. All this friendly bacterial growth is called intestinal flora, which should optimally be made up of 85 percent lactobacilli and 15 percent coliform bacteria.

Incredibly, all too often the bacteria count today is the reverse of what it should be. A solution is supplementation with Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bifidus, more commonly called just plain acidophilus. Acidophilus has strong antifungal properties. It can help reduce cholesterol, ease digestion and let our bodies absorb nutrients better.

What’s exciting is the understanding that a proper bacteria balance has powerful and far-reaching benefits for us. It’s strongly believed that when available living space in the intestine is spoken for by the good bacteria, the bad bacteria are much less likely to gain a foothold. You’re stronger and less susceptible to infection. Acidophilus is especially effective against candida.

Candida is a common but nasty parasitic yeast-like fungus. When candida multiplies it weakens the immune system as it robs it of resources. Then, as it grows even stronger it releases toxins that hinder the immune system even further.

My son had a case of candida. We took him to a naturopath who diagnosed him. We altered his diet and put him on acidophilus. The changes were almost immediate. Gone were the raccoon eyes, joint aches, fatigue and aversion to certain foods. It should be noted, too, that acidophilus can help some people alleviate lactose intolerance caused by a deficiency in the enzyme lactase.

There’s a whole litany of documented benefits of balancing your intestinal bacteria with acidophilus. It alleviates constipation, dull complexion, bad body odour, vitamin B deficiency, gas, ulcers, lack of energy, colon cancer and many other chronic disorders.

By improving digestion, acidophilus has proved beneficial in the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver and is also useful against chronic hepatitis. Unhealthy bacteria can also cause elevated levels of ammonia. Ammonia is a poison and a natural byproduct when protein is digested. It must be cleared from the body by the liver or it causes nausea, loss of appetite and even vomiting.

Health food stores sell acidophilus in a number of forms including tablet, capsulated or powdered. Dairy-free and hypoallergenic varieties are available. Some brands have added FOS (fructooligosaccharides), which feed the good bacteria you already have so you’re strengthening your current resources while adding new reserves.

Look for capsules with an enteric coating. This coating is important because it protects the capsule from stomach acids. To be effective, the acidophilus capsule must reach the small intestine. Any capsule that does not have an enteric coating has its contents destroyed in the stomach by the acids.

Acidophilus comes in single strains or combinations. There is even an ultra acidophilus available with 10 different probiotics and eight billion active living cells.

About the Author

James Wallace lives in Comox, BC and writes regularly on health related issues.