Lactobacillus is a type of “friendly” bacteria that normally live in the digestive, urinary, and genital systems without causing disease. Lactobacillus is also in some fermented foods like yogurt and in dietary supplements. Lactobacillus can help break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off organisms that might cause diseases like diarrhea.
Lactobacillus is most commonly taken by mouth to treat and prevent diarrhea, including infectious diarrhea and diarrhea linked with using antibiotics. Some people also take lactobacillus by mouth for general digestion problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), colic in babies, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), inflammation of the colon, stomach pain, constipation, and many other conditions but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses.
Giving lactobacillus to infants and children 1-36 months old when they are admitted to the hospital seems to reduce the risk of developing diarrhea. Also, lactobacillus can reduce the risk of diarrhea from all causes in undernourished children. But most research shows that giving lactobacillus to children who already have diarrhea does not help them to get better faster.
The strength of Lactobacillus products is usually indicated by the number of living organisms per capsule. Typical doses range from 1 to 10 billion living organisms taken daily in 3-4 divided doses.
For diarrhea: Six billion colony-forming units of lactobacillus has been used twice daily in infants while hospitalized. Also, 37 billion colony-forming units of lactobacillus has been used daily, 6 days weekly, for 15 months in children 6-24 months-old.
When taken by mouth, Lactobacillus is likely safe when taken appropriately. Side effects are usually mild and most often include intestinal gas or bloating. There is concern for people with weakened immune systems, short bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, or damaged heart valves – people with these conditions should consult with a physician before taking Lactobacillus.