What Are Bifidobacteria and What Are Their Benefits for Health?
Your body hosts several kinds of both good and bad bacteria. Bifidobacterium is one category of good bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract, although they can be grown outside the body and consumed as foods or supplements. The standard American diet is often lacking in healthy bacteria, which can cause an overgrowth of bad bacteria. Your intestinal system can easily get out of balance. Consider the following facts about what Bifidobacteria are and how supplements can help you.
Types of Bifidobacteria
Bifidobacteria belong to a category called lactic acid bacteria, and their shape resembles an irregular V or Y, or a branch. Three popular types of Bifidobacterium are Bifidobacterium longum, lactis and infantis.
What Does Bifidobacterium Do?
The good bacteria in your intestinal system help to break down the foods you eat and extract the nutrients. Your intestinal system absorbs these nutrients, helping to keep you healthy. Your intestines need to have an adequate amount of good bacteria, but bad bacteria can take over. Like other probiotics, Bifidobacteria help to replenish the beneficial bacteria in the intestines.
Many people take supplements of Bifidobacterium lactis, infantis and longum to restore intestinal balance and health. Bifidobacterium helps to boost your immune system and to lower your cholesterol. People may choose to take Bifidobacterium probiotic supplements during times of stress on the immune system, such as during or after chemotherapy or radiation, after taking antibiotics, or for travelers’ diarrhea in adults or for infant diarrhea.
A study showed that Bifidobacterium lactis may also aid in weight loss and weight management. Bifidobacterium lactis 420 is a strain of probiotic that reduced body fat mass, waist circumference, trunk fat mass and energy intake, when compared to a placebo. In addition to this, bifidobacterium lactis also helps us digest lactose. A study of 1,248 subjects found that four weeks of B. lactis supplementation led to increased bowel movement regularity.
- infantis is a strain that is known to be abundant in breast milk & involved in breastfeeding. However, it is also commonly found in your intestinal tract and levels of the bacteria naturally decline with age. A recent study found that supplementing with Bifidobacterium infantis may relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including abdominal pain and bloating.
The cause of IBS is largely unknown and there is no definitive cure. However, one study showed that taking Bifidobacterium probiotic supplements may help people with irritable bowel syndrome to have less symptoms like bloating and gas. Another study found that patients with ulcerative colitis have better colon health and more manageable symptoms when taking bifidobacteria probiotics.
Bifidobacterium longum supplements have a variety of benefits, especially for mental health. A study in the journal Bioscience of Microbiota, Food and Health reported positive results from oral use of Bifidobacterium longum supplements in reducing schizophrenia symptoms and anxiety in studies of mice. It appeared to work in reducing schizophrenia in mice by reducing resting plasma corticortisone levels and the ratio of kynurenine to tryptophan.
How to Get More Bifidobacteria in Your Diet
Because Bifidobacteria are part of the lactic acid family, the bacteria are naturally present in fermented dairy foods, such as yogurt and cheese. Many other foods contain Bifidobacterium, including the following:
- Brine-cured olives
- Cultured vegetables, like sauerkraut and kimchi
- Cultured dairy products, including yogurt and kefir
- Kombucha, a fermented tea that has become popular in recent years
- Tempeh, a meat substitute made of fermented soybeans
- Apple cider vinegar
Many Japanese foods contain fermented foods that are naturally high in the good bacteria that promote a healthy gut. However, you can still work toward achieving a healthier intestinal system by taking Bifidobacterium supplements in addition to eating probiotic foods.