What is Bifidobacterium?

Bifidobacterium is a genus of bacteria found mainly in the large intestine. This FAQ answers all of your questions about Bifidobacterium.

In this article we explain:

There are many different strains of bacteria in the Bifidobacterium genus (the plural is Bifidobacteria, which you may come across too). A genus is a ‘family’ of friendly bacteria and within the Bifidobacterium genus there are several species, including Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Bifidobacterium breve.

Each species of Bifidobacterium has different strains, such as the highly researched Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®, all with specific characteristics and functions in the body. The best way to ensure that you are taking the right types of friendly bacteria to suit you is by looking at the specific strains within a live cultures supplement. Read more about the difference between bacteria species and strains.

What does Bifidobacterium do?

We are often asked ‘is Bifidobacteria harmful or helpful?’ And the answer is a resounding ‘helpful’!

Functions of the Bifidobacterium genus are varied and unique, as with all bacteria, depending on the exact strain. However, there are some common characteristics of Bifidobacterium strains, one of which being their ability to break down complex carbohydrates in the gut. Lactic acid is produced as a result of the fermentation process, which lowers the pH level of the gut and encourages good bacteria to flourish.

The actions of Bifidobacteria make it possible for other species to exist and thrive. Acetate, a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) produced by Bifidobacteria, nourishes other bacteria that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that feeds the gut lining.

Where is Bifidobacterium found?

Bifidobacteria (sometimes referred to as Bifido) is found mainly in humans and animals.

Bifidobacteria are the most common genus of bacteria in the infant gut microbiome, being the first bacteria to colonise the intestinal tract as babies pass through the birth canal. From birth up until around the age of 3 years old Bifidobacterium bacteria comprise the largest percentage of an infant’s gut microbiome. After this time levels dramatically decrease to adult levels of about 5% of the gut microbiome.

Happy infant
Bifidobacterium is the most abundant bacteria in the infant gut microbiome

Which is the best Bifidobacterium supplement?

As already explained, there are many different strains of Bifidobacterium. The best supplement for you is the one that contains strains suitable for your specific needs.

In addition, when choosing the best Bifidobacterium live cultures supplement, check that the strain has sufficient scientific evidence to support its survival in the gut and the condition you want to support.

All Optibac products contain well-researched strains of live cultures. Our products which contain strains of Bifidobacteria are:

How much Bifidobacteria should you take?

That all depends on why you are taking a probiotic supplement. Some conditions require a higher quantity (billions count) than others in order to be effective. How much Bifidobacterium you take is also age dependent, as in the case of babies and children. 

Remember that a higher billions count does not necessarily equal higher quality – it’s most important to get the right strains, even if they’re in lower quantities.

For example, the recommended intake for our Baby Drops product is eight drops daily while for Bifido & Fibre the initial dosage of one sachet daily can be increased up to four sachets daily if required.

Always follow the manufacturer guidance on the packet.

Which foods contain Bifidobacteria?

Many foods are abundant in Bifidobacterium, including yoghurt and milk products.

Foods rich in fibre, such as apples, dates, lentils, blueberries, and broccoli, can all help your Bifidobacterium thrive, so are well worth including in your daily diet.

A diet low in fibre is associated with lower bacterial variety and abundance, whereas a diet rich in these non-digestible carbohydrates increases Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli in the gut.

All fermented foods are sources of Bifidobacteria, particularly milk kefir, sourdough bread, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented vegetables.  Fermented foods containing lactic acid bacteria, such as cultured milk and yoghurt products, have been found to increase levels of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

You can read more about Lactobacillus in our FAQ What is Lactobacillus? Read more about fermented foods over on the Probiotics Learning Lab.

Further reading:

Healthcare practitioners might be interested to find out more about Bifidobacterium on the Probiotics Database, on our Probiotic Professionals site.

This FAQ was answered by Helen Morton, Nutritional Therapist DipION


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