Lactobacillus

Print

What is it?

Lactobacillus species are probiotics (“good” bacteria) normally found in human digestive and urinary tracts. They can be consumed for diarrhea and “gut health.”

“Good” bacteria such as Lactobacillus can help the body break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off “bad” organisms that might cause diseases. Lactobacillus is sometimes added to fermented foods like yogurt and is also found in dietary supplements.

Lactobacillus is most commonly used for diarrhea, including infectious diarrhea and diarrhea in people taking antibiotics. Some people also use lactobacillus for general digestion problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colic in infants, and many other conditions that involve the stomach and bowel. But there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses. There is also no good evidence to support using lactobacillus for COVID-19.

It is effective?
Natural Medicines rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Possibly Effective for …

  • Stomach pain. Taking lactobacillus by mouth seems to reduce stomach pain in children. It’s not clear if it helps adults.
  • Hay fever. Taking lactobacillus by mouth seems to reduce hay fever symptoms in both adults and children. It’s not clear if taking it during pregnancy lowers the chances that the child will develop hay fever.
  • Diarrhea in people taking antibiotics (antibiotic-associated diarrhea). Taking lactobacillus by mouth, alone or with other probiotics, seems to reduce the risk of diarrhea while taking antibiotics.
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis). Taking lactobacillus by mouth, alone or with other probiotics, seems to help treat eczema in children. It also seems to help treat and prevent eczema in infants. But it’s not clear if taking it during pregnancy lowers the chances that the child will develop eczema.
  • Prone to allergies and allergic reactions (atopic disease). Taking a certain lactobacillus strain (L. rhamnosus GG) by mouth during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or giving it to the infant, seems to prevent some allergic reactions, such as asthma, runny nose, and eczema, in infants. But not all strains seem to work.
  • Overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. Lactobacillus suppositories and vaginal tablets might help treat this condition. Eating yogurt or using vaginal capsules containing lactobacillus might also help prevent these infections from occurring again.
  • Excessive crying in infants (colic). Giving infants a specific lactobacillus strain (L. reuteri) by mouth seems to help with colic. It’s not clear if other strains help.
  • Constipation. Taking lactobacillus by mouth seems to reduce constipation.
  • Diarrhea. Taking lactobacillus by mouth seems to help prevent diarrhea in children. But it’s not clear if it helps treat diarrhea in children. It’s also not clear if taking lactobacillus by mouth reduces the risk of diarrhea in adults.
  • A digestive tract infection that can lead to ulcers (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori). Taking lactobacillus by mouth along with most standard drug therapies helps treat stomach ulcers caused by H. pylori. But it’s not clear if lactobacillus can reduce side effects from these standard drug therapies.
  • High cholesterol. Taking lactobacillus by mouth seems to help lower cholesterol by a small amount.
  • Swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis). Taking lozenges containing lactobacillus from the first day of radiation/chemotherapy treatment until one week after seems to help prevent severe mouth sores.
  • Infection of the airways. Taking lactobacillus by mouth, alone or with other probiotics, seems to prevent airway infections in children and most adults. But taking lactobacillus doesn’t seem to prevent these infections in older adults.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Taking lactobacillus by mouth seems to improve some symptoms of RA.
  • Travelers’ diarrhea. Taking lactobacillus by mouth seems to help prevent diarrhea in people traveling to foreign places.
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis). Taking lactobacillus by mouth together with standard treatment seem to increase remission in people with ulcerative colitis. But it’s not clear if lactobacillus prevents ulcerative colitis relapse.

Possibly Ineffective for …

  • Infection of the gastrointestinal tract by a bacteria called Clostridium difficile. Taking lactobacillus by mouth does not help to prevent this infection.
  • Crohn disease. Taking lactobacillus by mouth does not prevent Crohn disease from becoming active again in people who are in remission.
  • Airway infections caused by exercise. Taking lactobacillus by mouth does not reduce the risk of developing an airway infection from exercise.
  • Vaginal yeast infections. Taking lactobacillus by mouth or using vaginal suppositories doesn’t prevent vaginal yeast infections in adults. It’s not clear if using lactobacillus vaginal suppositories helps treat yeast infections.

There is interest in using lactobacillus for a number of other purposes, but there isn’t enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

How does it work?

Is there concern for the safety of its use?
When taken by mouth: Lactobacillus is likely safe. Side effects are usually mild and most often include intestinal gas or bloating.

When applied to the vagina: Lactobacillus is likely safe.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Lactobacillus is possibly safe when taken by mouth appropriately while pregnant and breast-feeding.

Children: Lactobacillus is likely safe when taken by mouth appropriately in children.

Central lines: Infections of the blood have been reported in people who have central lines and take lactobacillus. If you have a central line, talk with your healthcare provider before taking probiotics.

Liver scarring (cirrhosis): There is some concern that lactobacillus might cause an infection in people with cirrhosis. If you have cirrhosis, talk with your healthcare provider before taking lactobacillus.

Digestive system problems: People with serious GI disorders, such as short bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), might be more likely to develop lactobacillus infections. If you have any of these conditions, talk with your healthcare provider before taking lactobacillus.

Weakened immune system: Lactobacillus has caused blood infections in a small number of people with weakened immune systems. This includes people with HIV/AIDS or cancer, or people who are taking medications to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ. If you have a weakened immune system, talk with your healthcare provider before taking lactobacillus.

Damaged heart valves: Lactobacillus can cause an infection in the inner lining of the heart chambers and heart valve. This is extremely rare, but people with damaged heart valves might be more likely to develop this type of infection. People with damaged heart valves should stop taking probiotics before dental procedures or surgical procedures.

Are there any drug interactions?

Antibiotic drugs

Interaction Rating=Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Lactobacillus is a type of friendly bacteria. Antibiotics are used to reduce harmful bacteria in the body. Taking antibiotics along with Lactobacillus can reduce the effects of Lactobacillus. To avoid this interaction, take Lactobacillus products at least 2 hours before or after antibiotics.

Are there any interactions with herbs and supplements?
There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there any interactions with food?
There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?
Lactobacillus is commonly added to fermented foods such as yogurts. It is also commonly taken in dietary supplements.

In adults, lactobacillus has most often been taken by mouth, alone or together with other probiotics, in doses of 50 million to 100 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) daily, for up to 6 months. In children, lactobacillus has most often been taken by mouth in doses of 100 million to 50 billion CFUs daily, for up to 3 months.

By what other names is the product known?
Acidophilus, Acidophilus Bifidus, Acidophilus Lactobacillus, L. Acidophilus, L. Amylovorus, L. Brevis, L. Bulgaricus, L. Casei, L. Casei Immunitas, L. Crispatus, L. Delbrueckii, L. Fermentum, L. Gallinarum, L. Gasseri, L. Helveticus, L. Johnsonii, L. Johnsonii LC-1, L. Lactis, L. Leichmannii, L. Paracasei, L. Pentosus, L. Plantarum, L. Reuteri, L. Rhamnosus, L. Sakei, L. Salivarius, Lacto Bacillus, Lactobacille, Lactobacilli, Lactobacilo, Lactospores, LC-1, Probiotic.

Natural Medicines disclaims any responsibility related to medical consequences of using any medical product. Effort is made to ensure that the information contained in this monograph is accurate at the time it was published. Consumers and medical professionals who consult this monograph are cautioned that any medical or product related decision is the sole responsibility of the consumer and/or the health care professional. A legal License Agreement sets limitations on downloading, storing, or printing content from this Database. Except for any possible exceptions written into your License Agreement, no reproduction of this monograph or any content from this Database is permitted without written permission from the publisher. Unlawful to download, store, or distribute content from this site.

For the latest comprehensive data on this and every other natural medicine, health professionals should consult the Professional Version of the Natural Medicines. It is fully referenced and updated daily.

© Copyright 1995-2021. Therapeutic Research Faculty, publishers of Natural Medicines, Prescriber’s Letter, and Pharmacist’s Letter. All rights reserved.