There are trillions of bacteria on and in your body, and they’re extremely important for your health. One of the most important types is called Bifidobacteria.
In this blog, we discover the benefits of Bifidobacterium and how this impacts your health.
These beneficial bacteria digest dietary fibre, help prevent infection and produce vitamins and other important chemicals.
Low counts of Bifidobacteria have been linked to many diseases, and Bifidobacteria supplements may help treat symptoms of certain diseases.
This article explains what these beneficial bacteria are, and why they are so important for your health.
How Gut Bacteria Affect Your Health
There are trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microbes living in your body. Most of these are found in your intestines, particularly in a small part of the large intestine called the cecum.
Collectively, these gut microbes are known as your gut microbiome.
There may be up to 1,000 species of bacteria in the human gut microbiome, and each of these carries out different functions in the body.
A few of these species can cause disease, but most of them are extremely important for your health.
The gut microbiome plays a number of roles in health by digesting certain foods, controlling the immune system and producing important chemicals that the body can’t make by itself.
In fact, an unhealthy microbiome has been shown to play a role in many chronic diseases, including obesity, heart disease and cancer.
A number of factors can affect the gut microbiome, including diet, antibiotic use and, particularly, stress. In addition, the way babies are delivered can affect their gut microbiomes.
Therefore, eating a diet that benefits the healthy bacteria within your gut microbiome may help you reduce the risk of such diseases.
Why are they so important to our health?
Bifidobacterium is a genus of the bacteria kingdom that reside in the GI (gastrointestinal) tract, vagina and mouth of mammals.
They are Gram-positive, use glucose as fuel instead of oxygen (anaerobic), and are usually branched-shaped. Bifidobacterium makes up 25% of adult faecal bacteria and 80% in infants, a phenomenally high number.
What separates this genus from the other bacteria is a particular pathway that allows it to ferment carbohydrates. This is beneficial for us because plant and milk carbohydrates are indigestible in their natural form.
But aside from providing our bodies with much-needed SCFAs, Bifidobacterium also works to protect us from infections.
For instance, B. Infantis was shown to have a broad spectrum of antimicrobial properties to inhibit the growth of pathogens and B. animalis DN-173 010 can adhere to intestinal cells, which keeps invading viruses or bacteria from binding to our epithelial cells. (R)
Bifidobacteria May Help Prevent Certain Diseases
Many diseases are associated with low numbers of Bifidobacteria in the intestines.
For example, studies have shown that people with celiac disease, obesity, diabetes, allergic asthma and dermatitis all appear to have lower levels of Bifidobacteria in their intestines compared to healthy people.
For this reason, a number of studies have examined whether taking Bifidobacteria in the form of probiotic supplements can increase their abundance in the gut and improve disease symptoms.
Certain species may help improve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including bloating, cramps and abdominal pain.
Studies into Bifidobacteria
A large study of 362 people found that taking a Bifidobacteria probiotic for four weeks significantly improved symptoms of IBS.
Other studies found that the same Bifidobacteria probiotic also reduced inflammation in people with inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, chronic fatigue syndrome and psoriasis.
This crucial strain of bacteria may help improve other health markers too. One study found that taking a Bifidobacteria probiotic for 45 days reduced body mass index (BMI) and blood cholesterol in people with metabolic syndrome.
Studies have found similar positive effects for lowering cholesterol.
Interestingly, Bifidobacteria probiotics may even help brain health.
Two studies have shown that, in combination with other probiotics, Bifidobacteria reduced psychological distress and negative thoughts associated with the sad moods in healthy people.
Furthermore, one recent study was the first to show that probiotics may benefit people with depression.
One study investigated the effects of a Bifidobacteria probiotic in 44 people with IBS and mild-to-moderate depression. Those who took the probiotic had significantly lower depression scores than those who took the placebo.
Your intestines contain trillions of bacteria that are hugely important for your health, and Bifidobacteria are one of the most important types of bacteria for lifelong well-being.
They carry out a number of important functions, including digesting the sugars in breast milk in infants and controlling the immune system and gut health in adults.
Bifidobacteria probiotics may even help treat symptoms of certain disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease.
The best way to increase levels of these beneficial bacteria in the gut is to eat a wide range of fibre-rich fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fermented foods.
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