Benefits of Bifidobacteria

 

When it comes to probiotics, there are a lot of impressively lengthy names of bacteria to wrap your tongue and taste buds around. The confusion however, does not stem from the pronunciations of those names, but more often from which bacteria are the best for you and what exactly they do.

Bifidobacteria happen to be amongst the most famous and important ones. You get them early in life from your mother's breast milk and later in life you also find them in cheese, yoghurt and other fermented foods. These good bacteria are well regarded for the benefits they bestow to your digestive system. They break down otherwise indigestible fibre and, like Lactobacillus, protect your gut from other less friendly microbes. But there are more advantages for your health that these bacteria offer.

What are some of the not-so-well-known benefits of Bifidobacterium?

As we have established, Bifidobacterium is a probiotic. Much similar sounding to ‘antibiotic’, however probiotics and antibiotics don’t really get along well together. You see, since the discovery of penicillin back in 1928 by Alexander Fleming, and the mass production of antibiotics by the 1940’s, these two have been caught up in a power struggle.

Antibiotics eradicate indiscriminately. Along with fighting off the unscrupulous bacteria which are the cause of your illness, antibiotics also annihilate the friendly bacteria that help to combat the bad guys.

According to NPS Medicinewise, Australia has one of the highest rates of antibiotic consumption in the developed world. This means that it is even more important to do something about our reliance on antibiotics, and ensure that we re-populate our gut by setting up a healthy intestinal microflora. This is where probiotics work their best; an increase in your gut health and the amped up level of probiotics that you consume, can prevent many health problems.

So, let's take a look at some of the most beneficial strains of Bifidobacteria:

Bifidobacterium bifidum

B.bifidum is a good bacterium that thrives within your intestines, and its main functions are to protect you from germs and bad bacteria. B.bifidum helps your body digest sugar and keeps toxins away from your blood to prevent illnesses and the disruption of your cellular functioning. These bacteria also produce some important vitamins required by your body, like vitamins B12, biotin and K2.

Bifidobacterium infantis

Like the name suggests, B.infantis flourishes in the intestines of infants and helps with the process of breaking down the lactic acid in breast milk. However, this bacterium is also great for adults, as it has the potential to offer a boost for your metabolism and reduce bloating and discomfort after a meal.

According to research [1] out of the U.K., women with IBS symptoms who consumed this probiotic, saw impressive improvement to their symptoms in only four weeks. B.infantis is great for stomach health and also offers support to the immune system.

Bifidobacterium longum

Bifidobacterium longum is especially beneficial for its ability to provide aid against gastrointestinal discomfort brought about by stress. B.longum also boasts properties that can help to reduce anxiety and lower the risk of colon cancer [2]. B.longum also has a renowned ability to ease irritation experienced within the body.

Bifidobacterium breve

B.breve’s main role is to ferment sugars and manufacture acetic and lactic acid. It can be especially beneficial to help with the digestion of some plant fibres that are not generally considered digestible. This strain of bacteria acts as a protector of your colon function, helps with constipation issues, reduces gas, diarrhea and the horrible bloated feeling.

B.breve has also been associated with reducing oral candida in older patients, which also helps to stop the spread of candida to other parts of the body like the gut.

Bifidobacterium adolescentis

B.adolescentis is an antiviral bacterial strain that, along with other benefits, may be especially advantageous for the health of the cervix in women. Researchers found that it could be a potential application of HPV-associated cervical cancer prevention [3].

Bifidobacteria may help reduce cold and flu symptoms

According to a study [4] out of the U.S, daily intake of Bifidobacterium can provide benefit related to cold and flu outcomes during times of acute stress. This study examined the effect of three potentially probiotic bacteria on the number of ‘healthy days’ over a 6-week period in academically stressed undergraduate students. It was found that the proportion of research participants who reported a cold on any given day was lower at weeks two and three with bacteria strains B.bifidum and B.infantis, than those who were taking placebo.

How to ensure you are getting enough Bifidobacteria

Re-populating your intestinal microflora with good bugs (including Bifidobacteria) is vital for your health and wellbeing. Antibiotics, pesticides on foods, refined sugars and sickness, can all play havoc on your gut heath and reduce the levels of your good bacteria. One way of boosting your good bugs is including in your diet home made fermented foods, which contain great amounts of various strains of bacteria, including Bifidobacteria. Eating fibre also increases levels of Bifidobacteria, which in turn produce all sorts of hormones and metabolites that improve not only your gut health, but also your weight and, possibly, your brain! [5]

Sources:

1. Whorwell PJ, Altringer L, Morel J, et al. Efficacy of an encapsulated probiotic Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Jul;101(7):1581-90.

2. Chong ES: A potential role of probiotics in colorectal cancer prevention: review of possible mechanisms of action. World J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2014 Feb

3. NCBI: Antiviral activity of Bifidobacterium adolescentis SPM1005-A on human papillomavirus type 16

4. NCBI: Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071 results in a greater proportion of healthy days and a lower percentage of academically stressed students reporting a day of cold/flu: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study

5.  Michael Mosley: The Clever Guts Diet

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