Bifidobacteria are a group of bacteria called probiotics that normally live in your intestines and stomach. They help your body perform essential functions such as digestion and staving off harmful bacteria.
Bifidobacterium bifidum (B. bifidum) is a type of probiotic ("good" bacteria) that lives in the intestines. It produces lactic and acetic acid in the gut. "Good" bacteria such as B. bifidum can help break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off "bad" organisms that might cause diseases. B. bifidum is commonly found in the feces of breastfed infants and is used in probiotic supplements.
People use B. bifidum for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and respiratory infections. It is also used for eczema, constipation, diarrhea, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses. There is also no good evidence to support using B. bifidum for COVID-19.
One species, named Bifidobacterium bifidum (B. bifidum), has gotten a lot of media attention as being potentially beneficial to health. Are there any actual positive health effects for eating this bacterium? Moreover, is it safe for human consumption?
Here’s the most up-to-date research on B. bifidum, where you can find it, and who it is and isn’t safe for.
Probiotics such as B. bifidum have exploded in popularity recently. However, research into B. bifidum has been limited. There aren’t many high-quality studies showing its effects on treating clinical conditions.
That said, several high-quality studies on the bacterium do exist that suggest B. bifidum shows promise in treating the following conditions:
infection by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori)
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
restoration of intestinal bacteria after chemotherapy
certain kinds of diarrhea
necrotizing enterocolitis, a type of infection in the intestinal lining caused by harmful bacteria
pouchitis, a complication of surgery for ulcerative colitis
infections related to chemotherapy
high LDL cholesterol (aka the “bad” cholesterol)
low HDL cholesterol (aka the “good” cholesterol)
Bifidobacteria BB 47 are a group of bacteria that normally live in the intestines. They can be grown outside the body and then taken by mouth as medicine.
Bifidobacteria are used for many conditions affecting the intestines, including preventing diarrhea in infants and children; as well as traveler’s diarrhea in adults. Some people take bifidobacteria to restore “good bacteria” in the gut that have been killed or removed by diarrhea, radiation, chemotherapy, antibiotics, or other causes. Bifidobacteria are also used to treat a bowel disease called ulcerative colitis, as well as a condition called pouchitis, which sometimes develops after surgery for ulcerative colitis. Some people use Bifidobacteria to prevent a particular bowel infection called necrotizing enterocolitis in newborns.
Other uses for Bifidobacteria include treating a skin condition in infants called atopic eczema, yeast infections (candidiasis), cold, flu, reducing flu-like symptoms in children attending day-care centers, breast pain (mastitis), hepatitis, lactose intolerance, mumps, Lyme disease, and cancer. These bacteria are also used to boost the immune system and lower cholesterol.
How does it work?
Bifidobacteria belong to a group of bacteria called lactic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria are found in fermented foods like yogurt and cheese. Bifidobacteria are used in treatment as so-called “probiotics,” the opposite of antibiotics. They are considered "friendly" bacteria and are taken to grow and multiply in areas of the body where they normally would occur. The human body counts on its normal bacteria to perform several jobs, including breaking down foods, helping the body take in nutrients, and preventing the take-over of “bad” bacteria. Probiotics such as bifidobacteria are typically used in cases when a disease occurs or might occur due to a kill-off of normal bacteria. For example, treatment with antibiotics can destroy disease-causing bacteria, but also normal bacteria in the GI (gastrointestinal) and urinary tracts. The theory is that taking Bifidobacterium probiotics during antibiotic treatment can prevent or minimize the death of good bacteria and the take-over by bad bacteria.
USES & EFFECTIVENESS
Constipation. Some early research shows that taking a specific Bifidobacterium breve product (Yakult Co., Japan) can reduce constipation in children 3-16 years of age. Also, most research shows that mixing Bifidobacterium longum BB536 with milk or yogurt and taking the mixture daily for 2 weeks increases the number of bowel movements in adults prone to constipation. However, taking this same strain of Bifidobacterium for 16 weeks does not seem to reduce constipation in elderly adults receiving nutrition with a feeding tube.
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. Taking bifidobacteria along with other probiotic bacteria strains seems to reduce side effects of treatment for the ulcer-causing bacterium Helicobacter pylori.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Taking Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 (Align or Bifantis, Proctor & Gamble) for 8 weeks seems to reduce symptoms of IBS. However, it does not seem to increase bowel movements. Taking a specific product containing species of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Streptococcus (VSL#3) seems to decrease bloating in people with IBS.
A type of infection in the lining of the intestine caused by bacteria (necrotizing enterocolitis; NEC). Taking Bifidobacterium infantis along with another bacterium called Lactobacillus acidophilus seems to help prevent NEC in critically ill infants.
A complication after surgery for ulcerative colitis called pouchitis. Taking a specific product containing a combination of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Streptococcus (VSL#3) by mouth seems to help prevent pouchitis after surgery for ulcerative colitis.
Lung infections. Some research suggests that taking a specific combination product containing Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium (HOWARU Protect) with milk helps reduce symptoms of fever, cough, runny nose, and decreases the amount of antibiotics needed in children. It may also shorten how long children have symptoms and decrease the number of days missed from daycare. Also, eating food containing Bifidobacterium longum BB536 for 3 weeks before getting a flu shot and for 14 weeks thereafter seems to help prevent the flu in elderly people.
Diarrhea in infants (rotaviral diarrhea). Taking Bifidobacterium bifidum seems to help prevent rotaviral diarrhea when used with other bacteria such as Streptococcus thermophiles or Bifidobacterium Bb12.
Traveler's diarrhea. Taking Bifidobacterium seems to help prevent traveler’s diarrhea when used with other bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, or Streptococcus thermophilus.
Ulcerative colitis. Research suggests that taking specific products containing combinations of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Streptococcus (VSL#3) or Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus acidophilus (Yakult Co., Japan) helps control symptoms and prevent their recurrence in people with ulcerative colitis.
In Addition Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
Diarrhea caused by antibiotics. So far, some studies have found Bifidobacterium effective for this use, but other study results have not agreed.
Scaly, itchy skin (eczema). Some research shows that giving Bifidobacterium lactis by mouth reduces eczema severity in infants. However, giving Bifidobacterium along with Lactobacillus does not seem to prevent eczema in infants with a family history of the condition.
Infections related to chemotherapy treatment. Early research suggests that taking specific products containing Bifidobacterium longum and Lactobacillus acidophilus (Morinaga Bifidus) or Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Enterococcus faecalis (Levenin) does not prevent Candida infection in people with leukemia who are undergoing chemotherapy.
High cholesterol. Early research suggests that taking milk containing Lactobacillus acidophilus 145 and Bifidobacterium longum BB536 reduces “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in people with high cholesterol. However, it also seems to reduce “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Infant development. Giving formula containing Bifidobacterium longum BL999 plus prebiotics, or giving Bifidobacterium longum BB536 plus Lactobacillus rhamnosus or Lactobacillus paracasei, does not seem to improve growth in infants. However, drinking milk containing Bifidobacterium longum BB536, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, prebiotics, and fatty acids seems to increase weight gain in toddlers.
Japanese cedar pollen allergy. Some research suggests that taking Bifidobacterium longum BB536 during pollen season might reduce nose and eye symptoms of Japanese cedar pollen allergy. However, some conflicting evidence exists. Also, this strain of bifidobacteria does not seem to reduce sneezing or throat symptoms associated with Japanese cedar pollen allergy.
Preventing infections after exposure to radiation. Early research suggests that antibiotic-resistant Bifidobacterium longum can help improve short-term survival in the treatment of radiation sickness. In combination with antibiotics, bifidobacteria appear to help prevent dangerous bacteria from growing and causing a serious infection.
Common cold and flu (influenza).
Breast pain, possibly due to infection (mastitis).
Replacing beneficial bacteria removed by diarrhea.
What does the research say?
Multiple research studies indicate that B. bifidum is helpful in the following areas.
Symptoms of IBS
A 2011 randomised trail of 122 people indicates that B. bifidum may help lower symptoms of IBS. In it, researchers provided 62 people a placebo and 60 others a tablet containing B. bifidum each day. After four weeks, about 47 percent of subjects taking the probiotic reported significant relief from symptoms, while only 11 percent of subjects taking the placebo did.
Another study involving human tissue samples also suggests that B. bifidum may play a helpful role in containing symptoms of IBS.
More high-quality clinical trials in humans are needed to prove B. bifidum’s role, but these results are promising.
Several studies on human tissue cells indicate that B. bifidum might improve immunity. Researchers in one study noted that different strains of these bacteria have the ability to influence the immune system. Some can boost immunity by recruiting white blood cells to fight off an infection. Others can reduce inflammation by recruiting fewer white blood cells.
More clinical trials on human subjects are needed to evaluate the value of B. bifidum on the immune system.
Eczema in infants
Eczema is itchy scaly patches of skin. A randomised research of 112 pregnant women suggest that B. bifidum may play a role in preventing eczema in their babies. In the study, researchers provided mothers with a family history of eczema either a placebo pill or pill of B. bifidum four to eight weeks prior to giving birth. After birth, researchers provided infants one tablet of B. bifidum per day for six months. About 18.2 percent of the infants who took the B. bifidum tablet had eczema. In contrast, about 40.0 percent of infants in the placebo group had eczema.
The results of this study are promising, but more research is needed.
Where to find this probiotic?
Like other probiotic bacteria, B. bifidum can be produced outside your body and ingested orally. Certain foods are abundant in it, including:
yogurt with added cultures
kefir, a fermented milk drink
fermented foods including kimchi, tempeh, miso, and pickles
Early studies on B. bifidum show promise that it can treat health conditions, especially IBS, unregulated immunity, and eczema. However, more high-quality studies are needed to examine the effects of B. bifidum. This probiotic is safe for most healthy adults to use daily. Consult with your doctor and stop immediately if you experience side effects.
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