Any probiotics guide to beneficial bacteria would be incomplete without mentioning the Bifidobacterium group. All high-quality probiotics will include strains of this group among its ingredients, along with the Lactobacillus family of good bacteria. Here’s some information on Bifidobacterium, including reported health benefits, and more:
What is Bifidobacterium?
If you were looking at a probiotics guide in order to help decide what type of supplement to buy, it would be understandable if you were at least a bit confused. Bifidobacterium might be a Latin term, but the potential benefits are easy to understand in plain English. This type of bacteria is usually found in the large intestine, helping to make the intestinal wall stronger by producing lactic acid. These are just some of the strains of Bifidobacterium that you need to make sure are included in any probiotic supplement you might be considering.
Bifidobacterium bifidum – B. bifidum is an extremely important strain, because there is a great deal of scientific proof that it can help the digestive system function properly. It helps keep harmful microbes from entering the intestine and also helps boost the immune system, which protects the body from several potentially serious diseases.1
B. bifidum is one of the first beneficial types of bacteria that develop in the body. Research shows that it plays a role in protecting us from toxins and reducing the chances we will contact a cold or the flu.2 Studies also show that B. bifidum aids in the production of B12 and other important vitamins.3
Bifidobacterium breve – Another important member of the Bifidobacterium family, B. breve can also help protect the body from pathogenic microbes. B. breve, according to studies, helps inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth.4
Bifidobacterium infantis – B. infantis is also among the first bacteria that form in the body – in fact, it is found in substantial numbers in human breast milk. B. infantis breaks down lactic acid so that babies can digest the milk. But it has also been shown to help adults. For example, one study showed that B. infantis can help improve the ability of the digestive system to function properly. Women suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) took probiotic supplements containing the bacterium, while another group took a placebo. The women who took the supplement reported significant improvements in their symptoms after one month.5
Bifidobacterium lactis – There are some beneficial bacteria that work harder than others, and B. lactis falls into this category. It plays an important role in helping us digest dairy products, because it breaks down lactose. Studies show that it could also help reduce the symptoms associated with celiac disease.6
Bifidobacterium longum – While antibiotics are extremely important drugs, they can sometimes cause complications. One of the most common is antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD). B. longum has been shown to help reduce the symptoms of AAD.7
What to Look For in Probiotic Supplements
It can be an overwhelming task to find the right probiotic supplement because there are thousands of options. That’s why you need to do at least a little research before you make your decision.
Look closely at the label before you buy anything. It should read, “viable until expiration date.” The bacteria contained in the product should remain alive until that date. Make sure the label states whether or not the product needs to be refrigerated. Some probiotics are freeze-dried and can be stored in any cool, dry place.
If, on the other hand, the label reads, “viable at the time of manufacture” or something to that effect, that only means the bacteria in the product were alive when the product was made. There’s no guarantee that will still be the case when you use it. And if the bacteria are dead, they obviously can’t do you any good.
How to Use Probiotics
There’s no “one size fits all” probiotics guide to just how many beneficial bacteria you need to get into your system. Supplements range from 1 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) to hundreds of billions of CFUs per serving. Most experts, however, agree that 15-30 billion CFUs should be enough to provide benefits. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s dosage directions.
But you should have a discussion with your doctor before starting any sort of probiotic regimen. People who are in good overall health can take them safely, but there are others who really need to be careful. If, for example, you have immune system problems or a severe intestinal condition, your doctor may recommend that you avoid probiotics. The reason is that some people have reported that supplements actually made their condition worse.
The Bottom Line
If you are reading this or any other probiotics guide, it’s obviously because you’re interested in the potential benefits that supplements may be able to provide. And there are many. But it’s important to note that probiotics aren’t magical products. They won’t immediately make you feel well if you have a disease. Some people believe that probiotics can help them lose weight, but there is hardly any scientific proof that is the case. Always be wary of products making claims that seem too good to be true.
While probiotics seem to provide substantial benefits, there is still a lot of research that needs to be conducted. For example, scientists are still trying to determine if particular strains of bacteria can be used for specific health conditions, and if so, what the proper dosages might be.
But if you are in good health, the research indicates that there is a high likelihood that probiotics can help you stay that way.