Bifidobacterium: All you need to know
When it comes to probiotics, you cannot miss out on Bifidobacterium, one of the key players in gut health.
Now, before you start fretting about having to remember complex scientific names, hear me out.
Bifidobacterium is a type of friendly bacteria that is definitely worth getting acquainted with.
So, let’s discover why this good bacteria is an essential component in keeping your gut health in check.
Get to know Bifidobacterium with me
Name – Bifidobacterium
Character – A friendly bacteria
Habitat – In the human gut together with
trillions of microbes
- Fights harmful bacteria and maintains the microflora balance in the gut microbiome.
- Aids in many different digestive processes.
- Synthesizes B group vitamins
- Modulates the host immune system
- Ferment indigestible fibers and release organic acids and antimicrobials
- Able to do wonders not only in gut health but also in overall health
Discovery of Bifidobacterium
In 1899, Henri Tissier, a French pediatrician, isolated a bacterium with Y-shaped morphology( bifid ) from the feces of breastfed infants and named it “bifidus”. He reported that they are a reason for a lower incidence of infantile diarrhea in breast-fed infants.
He found that bifidobacteria can produce lactic acid and acetic acid when they ferment oligosaccharides in human breast milk. The acidic change in the gut environment builds a natural defense barrier for harmful microbes.
Bifidobacteria are not unfamiliar to you. They have been your reliable buddies since you were an infant. Unbeknownst to you, they have been working hard to keep you healthy and strong.
Uses and effectiveness of Bifidobacterium
- Irritable bowel syndrome(IBS)
IBS is a persistent gastrointestinal ailment that affects approximately one-fifth of the population. Although it does not present any danger to one’s physical well-being, its symptoms can be frustrating and significantly impact one’s quality of life.
In IBS, it is well known that there is an imbalance in the gut microbiota, immune alteration, and low-grade intestinal mucosa inflammation, thus also known as leaky gut. Bifidobacteria can restore the natural balance of the gut microbiome, modulate immune homeostasis, and calm inflammation.
Last year, a group of researchers conducted a thorough analysis of eight clinical trials to examine the effectiveness of bifidobacterium in relieving symptoms of IBS. The study involved a total of 1045 patients with IBS. The findings indicated that bifidobacteria can be highly beneficial in reducing IBS symptoms and improving the overall quality of life for patients.
Bifidobacteria will help you say goodbye to those frustrating IBS symptoms and welcome the happy gut.
- Ulcerative colitis
Ulcerative colitis(UC) is a type of inflammatory bowel disorder that cripples the gut of the sufferers.
The disease appears to have an atypical immunologic response to bacterial flora, leading to gut inflammation. However, bifidobacteria can dwindle this abnormal immune activation and alleviate gut inflammation.
One research examined the ability of Bifidobacterium longum 536 to induce remission in active ulcerative colitis. The researchers revealed that B.longum 536 was significantly superior to the placebo in achieving remission.
A similar study also provides strong evidence to endorse B.longum as adjuvant therapy in patients with ulcerative colitis.
This mighty bacteria will help you maintain a longer remission of ulcerative colitis.
- Infantile diarrhea
Bifidobacteria are beneficial bacteria that are commonly found in the infant’s intestines. They make up a significant portion of the infant gut microbiome, accounting for 60% of all bacteria.
Studies have revealed that infants with diarrhea have lower levels of bifidobacteria in their gut than healthy infants.
Moreover, bottle-fed infants tend to be more susceptible to infantile diarrhea than breastfed babies because the latter have higher numbers of bifidobacteria.
Bifidobacteria ferment oligosaccharides in breast milk and produce short-chain fatty acids that strengthen the gut barrier. These bacteria also modulate the immune response and maintain a healthy gut in infants.
Nourish your little one with the most precious milk of all to prevent infantile diarrhea.
- Traveler’s diarrhea
Are you anticipating any future travel plans that may put you at risk of contracting traveler’s diarrhea? It can be a source of inconvenience and discomfort to have to constantly search for restroom facilities during your trip.
Probiotics like bifidobacteria will prevent traveler’s diarrhea by enhancing your gut barrier function and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
One meta-analysis from Pubmed Central approved the significant efficacy of bifidobacteria and other probiotics in the prevention of traveler’s diarrhea. The researchers added that the probiotics are also safe to use without any adverse effects.
Make your gut happy on vacation by taking probiotic
Constipation is a frequently encountered issue that can significantly diminish one’s quality of life. While it can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor diet and lifestyle habits, one of the most common underlying issues is an imbalance in gut bacteria.
Probiotics can help promote regular bowel movements by balancing the bacteria in your digestive system.
A recent study in 2022 confirmed that bifidobacteria are effective in the clinical treatment of constipation. The probiotics improved the rate of gut motility, increased the amount of stool, and alleviated the symptoms of constipation.
This bacteria will bring some smoothness to your bowel movements.
- Respiratory tract infections
Your friendly bacteria may be doing more than just keeping your gut healthy. As immunomodulatory agents, probiotics could influence disease severity and incidence at sites distal to the gut.
There is increasing evidence that orally delivered probiotics are able to regulate immune responses in the respiratory system.
In 2021, researchers reviewed a total of 27 clinical trials conducted on 9433 patients with respiratory tract infections. The review found that probiotics could significantly reduce severity and duration of respiratory tract infections by boosting the immune function. Commonly used probiotics include Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces.
As we gain more understanding about the specific mechanisms that drive the probiotic effect on the respiratory system during illnesses, and as additional clinical trials are conducted, probiotics are going to emerge as a valuable approach to addressing lung infections.
Your probiotic might be lending a hand to your lungs as well.
- High cholesterol
It is surprising that the tiny microbes residing in your gut have the potential to reduce your blood cholesterol levels. Specifically, probiotics have been found to lower bad LDL cholesterol.
This lipid lowering effect is believed to be achieved by inhibiting cholesterol absorption in the intestine. Additionally, probiotics can stimulate the production of bile acids that aid in the metabolism of fat and cholesterol in the body.
A clinical trial involving patients with type 2 diabetes and hyperlipidemia showed that consuming probiotic yogurts containing bifidobacteria and lactobacillus for six weeks led to a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL-C. However, there were no significant changes observed in triglycerides and good cholesterol(HDL-C)levels.
Bacteria in your gut may be taking care of your heart by lowering blood cholesterol levels.
- Atopic eczema
Eczema is an inflammatory condition that can be a lifelong challenge for those affected by it. Its symptoms can range from skin itchiness and dryness to flaking, blistering, oozing, and even bleeding.
The link between eczema and the gut microbiota has been established through clinical studies. Infants who suffer from eczema have been found to have lower gut microbial diversity than healthy individuals.
According to research, Bifidobacterium bifidum supplementation can effectively reduce the severity index of eczema in infants. The probiotic colonizes the intestinal tract, enhances the immune system, and improves the barrier function against external pathogens.
However, the evidence is still limited to support the practical use of bifidobacteria for the sole purpose of treating eczema.
Your probiotic can do magic beyond your gut, even for your skin.
How to increase Bifidobacteria in your gut?
- Indulge in delicious fermented foods
- Yogurt with live cultures of bifidobacterium – a popular fermented product that offers a pleasant and delicious taste sensation. However, some yogurt products may not contain live bacteria due to pasteurization methods employed by manufacturers to prolong their shelf life.
- Cottage cheese – cottage cheese is a great pick for your gut if you are a cheese lover. If you are worrying about fat content, cottage cheese is low in cholesterol, but rich in calcium and proteins.
- Kefir – a probiotic drink made from the fermented milk of a cow, goat, or sheep. Despite being a powerful probiotic, kefir contains calcium, proteins, and B vitamins.
- Sauerkraut – a famous German dish, made with fermented cabbage and is rich in vitamins C and minerals such as iron, potassium, and magnesium.
- Kimchi – a delicious fermented Korean cabbage dish with a sour, salty, and umami flavor.
- Pickles – cucumbers that have been preserved in salty water and fermented. However, pickles made with vinegar do not contain live probiotics.
- Take probiotic supplements containing bifidobacterium
Consuming fermented foods can aid in the proliferation of bifidobacteria in your gut. However, if you want to address a specific health issue, taking a probiotic supplement can be an excellent option because it can deliver the targeted health benefits of bifidobacterium with a precise dosage.
- Don’t forget to feed this bacteria its favorite food
What do bifidobacteria fancy?
As a newborn, your gut microbiome was ruled by bifidobacteria. But as you grew up, their presence dwindled to a mere 5% of your adult gut microbiome. Why? Well, it turns out that bifidobacteria have a particular taste for the variety of oligosaccharides found in human milk. Breast-fed infants develop a more diverse Bifidobacterium microbiota than their formula-fed counterparts, thanks to the abundance of human milk oligosaccharides.
Fear not! Bifidobacteria still have a place in your adult gut.
They now rely on prebiotic oligosaccharides found in plant-based foods, whole grains, and legumes. They provide the perfect feast for your bifidobacteria to thrive, colonize, and function effectively.
So go ahead and enjoy those delicious prebiotic-rich meals to keep your gut microbiome happy and healthy!
How many bifidobacteria should you take?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much should be taken.
Individuals with a healthy gut microbiome may require less bifidobacterium than those with an imbalanced or compromised microbiome. Additionally, some individuals may be more sensitive to bifidobacterium supplements and may need to take a lower dosage to avoid adverse effects.
The best way is to start with a lower dosage and gradually increase it as tolerated.
Are there any side effects with bifidobacterium?
Similar to other probiotic supplements, bifidobacteria have a favorable safety profile.
However, during the initial days of use, one may experience symptoms such as gas, bloating, and loose stool as the body adjusts to higher levels of bacteria. These symptoms are not a cause for concern and will gradually subside. Further information about probiotic side effects can be found in my previous article.
People with compromised immune systems, whether due to medications or underlying diseases, should avoid probiotics. As live bacteria, there is a risk of them crossing the gut barrier and entering the bloodstream, potentially causing infections.
Although there have been rare cases involving other probiotic species such as lactobacillus, there have not been any reported incidents specifically related to bifidobacteria.
The age-old debate of whether supplements or food
When it comes to supplements and food, it is always advisable to obtain nutrients (including probiotics) from food sources.
Nonetheless, as doctors, we treat patients, not diseases. It is essential to consider patients’ values to provide personalized care. Therefore, rather than providing a straightforward answer, I want you to answer some questions.
- Do you eat a variety of probiotic-rich foods on a daily basis?
If you are able to indulge in probiotic-rich foods daily, why would you invest extra money to pursue a probiotic supplement? These foods will provide you with additional micronutrients. And, you can also enjoy a tasty recipe while being blessed with the health benefits.
- Are you looking to address specific health issues or symptoms?
For those seeking a solution for a particular health concern, probiotic supplements are a superior option as they offer precise and targeted health benefits. In contrast, relying on food alone may not provide the exact amount necessary to address the imbalance.
At the end of the day, the choice is yours to make. Our role is to provide you with the necessary information and guidance to make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and values.
Your brain must be feeling drained after embarking on this long journey through the article. So, here is a brief summary.
- Bifidobacterium is a highly promising probiotic strain with numerous potential benefits.
- Not only beneficial in improving overall gut health but also effective in treating IBS, ulcerative colitis, traveler’s diarrhea, constipation, and respiratory tract infections.
- Breastfed infants have been observed to have a higher colonization of bifidobacteria which helps in preventing infantile diarrhea.
- It has also shown potential benefits in managing atopic eczema, and reducing blood cholesterol levels.
- To ensure a healthy abundance of bifidobacteria, it is advisable to include fermented foods, plant-based foods, whole grains, and legumes in your diet.
- You can take a probiotic supplement unless your immune system is too fragile. However, it is recommended to begin with a low dose and gradually increase it to achieve the desired benefits.