Bifidobacterium Longum – Know the Facts
If we were to make a brief list of today’s most popular probiotic names, then Bifidobacterium longum would definitely be a clear favorite in this sense.
Like most other ‘good’ bacteria, this probiotic has been long used in a variety of products ranging from dairy assortments to dietary supplements in order to promote better health levels and happier moods alike. In fact, it is most likely that you yourself have come across a natural yogurt or enhancer using Bifidobacterium longum as their main probiotic strain.
But how much would you actually say you know about this beneficial microorganism? Let’s find out together.
Bifidobacterium longum 101
According to scientific classifications, Bifidobacterium longum represents a non-sporulating, non-motile, anaerobe (yet aerobe tolerant) bacterium belonging to the Bifidobacteriaceae family and Bifidobacterium genus. In simpler terms, it means that this probiotic does not create spores (which are otherwise a form of reproduction for various organisms), it cannot travel ‘freely’ within the body, and it thrives best in low oxygenated environments.
The versatility of Bifidobacterium longum as a lactic acid microorganism is reflected in its capacity to resist under harsh conditions such as stomach acid, bile, pH fluctuations, and gastrointestinal passage. ‘Good’ bacteria colonies usually adhere to the gastric and intestinal lining, which implies that they are inevitably faced with a number of not so ‘gentle’ internal transformations that accompany digestion throughout its length.
Needless to say, it is highly important for probiotics of any kind to survive in these circumstances if they are to both develop properly and grant us with their specific health benefits. Luckily enough, Bifidobacterium longum formations have proven themselves to be strong candidates in this instance, as their diverse commercial employments currently demonstrate (having been used as an active component in natural yogurts, supplements, etc.).
Bifidobacterium longum is most prevalent in the human body during early infancy, being transmitted from mother to child through the process of natural birth and breastfeeding equally. The result is that children born via C-section and/ or switched to formula milk are being deprived of substantial probiotic enhancement from the very beginning of their lives. This should prove out to be detrimental in the long run because the first stage of ‘friendly’ bacteria colonization will influence a person’s gastrointestinal dynamic throughout their entire life.
Recent times have marked a dispute within the scientific community regarding the distinct distribution of Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium suis, and Bifidobacterium infantis respectively. In 2012, the three probiotic types have been officially unified under the Bifidobacterium longum species name, although the bacterial triad is still frequently being used separately under the aforementioned different names.
A distinguishing characteristic of Bifidobacterium longum is its strong ability to ferment carbohydrates (especially oligosaccharides), something that then translates into improved metabolic rhythms involving glucose and therefore higher energy levels. In addition, Bifidobacterium longum has been shown to positively influence amino acid fermentation, thus helping with muscle maintenance and overall cell structure.
Why are probiotics important anyway?
You might be thinking to yourself by now: what is all this talk about probiotics anyway? What are they exactly and how do they help us humans stay healthy in the long run? Where and how can we find sources of true probiotic enrichment? etc.
In all truthfulness, you are more than entitled to question the hype behind probiotics, more so since the last few years have shown an increase in their popularity – but not so much so in their correct description towards the general public.
Consequently, we nowadays call ‘probiotics’ the ‘friendly’, advantageous microorganisms which can be found at the level of the gastrointestinal and urogenital systems, as well as in breast milk and a number of external sources (like dairy products and fermented vegetables, for example). Unlike pathogens, probiotics create a symbiotic relationship with the human body by establishing colonies that perform numerous beneficial functions.
Probably the most iconic such contributions of ‘good’ bacteria like Bifidobacterium longum is that of significantly meliorated digestive functions. Stable colonies are hence responsible for boosting food decomposition and the absorption of nutrients within the organism, as well as with regularizing bowel motility and promoting general abdominal comfort. The subsequent effects of this internal balance are higher energy levels, better control over weight fluctuations, and even improved mental stability.
The other major aspect often linked to probiotics is that of their antiseptic properties. If you did not know, probiotics are in fact able to ‘target’ unwanted pathogens such as microbes, fungi, and yeasts and either suppress their development or eliminate them completely. ‘Friendly’ bacteria have more than once been associated with approximately 70% of an individual’s immune screening. Their sustained production of lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide ensures that pathogens are inhibited from evolving into more serious afflictions no matter what their entrance pathway within the body might be (airborne, ingested, via wounds, etc.).
Some scientific research has gone so far as to suggest that probiotics could replace the standard antibiotic treatment in the case of certain health issues such as yeast infections and stomach upset. While we are not yet in a rush to ditch established meds out the window, there is no doubt that probiotic supplementation does indeed present the potential to counteract the serious aftermath of gastric problems, pneumonia, vaginal imbalances, etc. in a more wholesome and organic manner.
These ‘good’ bacteria would also destroy just their ‘bad’ counterparts and leave the other probiotic colonies intact – unlike antibiotics, which do not distinguish between the two categories and therefore generate side effects like diarrhea episodes, visceral cramping, and irregular gastrointestinal activity.
Aside from gut and immune protections, probiotics can also be linked with a variety of other wellness-related aspects. A correctly functioning gut further implies better cardiovascular functions, lower cholesterol, fewer chances of getting diabetes, and higher weight control, alongside considerably more protection for your respiratory system, urinary and vaginal tracts, mouth cavity, etc. Not to mention that probiotics have been associated with ameliorated mental health as well, since long-lasting colonies of these ‘friendly’ microorganisms can reduce stress and normalize hormonal activity over time.
Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics, namely a series of non-digestible plant fibres that can be consumed before probiotic supplementation in order to ensure a richer source of nourishment for the latter microorganisms. The most common prebiotic sources you are likely to come across are chicory root, asparagus, bananas, whole wheat flour, and onions.
The health benefits of Bifidobacterium longum
As previously mentioned, probiotics have gained most of their fame in relation to the decisive role they play within the economy of the gastrointestinal system. For Bifidobacterium longum, studies have revealed that stable colonies of this bacterium lead to drastically augmented stages of digestion, particularly in which concerns lactose processing.
For individuals who struggle with lactose sensitivity or intolerance, eating any sort of dairy product frequently becomes a one way path towards abdominal pain, irregular intestinal motility (diarrhea or constipation), and severe distention (bloating and gas). Even when you try to actively avoid these foods, it is practically impossible to avoid coming in contact with a lactose ‘contaminated’ product these days (as most labels keep on reminding us).
The fact that Bifidobacterium longum is responsible for a more effective carbohydrate metabolism (milk sugars included) is no news for nutritionists and the scientific community alike. As a consequence, Bifidobacterium longum supplementation could potentially help in reducing these symptoms and even allow lactose intolerant people to safely include more yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and soft cheeses into their diet on a day-to-day basis.
Stable colonies of Bifidobacterium longum have been equally connected with improved cholesterol results, which automatically translates into increased cardiovascular and arterial health.
Additionally, Bifidobacterium longum has been revealed to help with persistent gut issues too. Among these we can count ulcerative colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Escherichia coli and Helicobacter pylori infections, for example. Such disturbances in the natural rhythms of your body usually come ‘paired’ with substantial side effects, so it is in everyone’s best interest to actively avoid and manage them as quickly, efficiently, and (why not) naturally as possible.
Bifidobacterium longum also acts as an immunity screener by combating ‘bad’ bacteria and keeping them from transforming into harder to handle overgrowths. Like all Bifidobacterium bacteria, Bifidobacterium longum microorganisms produce lactic acid during the fermentation processes of various foods. Consequently, this substance attains the double role of digestive booster and pathogen inhibitor. So it comes as no surprise to know that up to 70% of your immune protection lies inside the gastrointestinal system, with probiotics being responsible for the active management of most airborne and/ or ingested microbes, fungi, viruses, etc.
Moreover, Bifidobacterium longum seems to exhibit remarkable immunomodulatory properties in the case of carcinogenic manifestations as well. Research focused on this topic has responded positively with regards to the anti-carcinogenic properties of probiotics, with Bifidobacterium longum coming into the limelight of ‘good’ bacteria as a distinguishably helpful tool in stopping the spreading and intensity of colon, mammary, and liver cancers, for instance.
Another important aspect of Bifidobacterium longum has been revealed through experiments to be its strong antioxidative capacities. One study comparing this property in both Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum concluded that the latter is significantly better at promoting cell health and rejuvenation (although Lactobacillus acidophilus is undoubtedly much more famously employed as a probiotic component in contemporary times).
The immunomodulatory properties of Bifidobacterium longum appear to extend beyond physical afflictions and enter the area of mental stability as well. If you did not know by now, the gastrointestinal tract and neurological system are dependent on one another via what is known as the ‘brain-gut axis’. This direct line of communication between the two major components of the human body implies that the two exert reciprocal influence to the point where an imbalance in one is felt in the other accordingly.
The research focused on Bifidobacterium longum argues that this probiotic has the capacity to regulate hormonal activity, reduce anxiety and depression, as well as minimize fatigue and anger responses in the long run.
How can you increase your Bifidobacterium longum intake?
Now that you have seen the many and varied ways in which Bifidobacterium longum aids human wellness, wanting to know what sources of probiotics are readily available to you comes only naturally.
First of all, you can increase your Bifidobacterium longum intake by consuming dairy products. As previously mentioned, probiotics are commonly used as starter cultures in the fermentation of natural yogurts, kefir, buttermilk, and certain cheeses (Emmental, Gouda, Mozzarella, etc.). Keep an eye out for a specific Bifidobacterium longum addition mentioned on the packaging since pasteurization (high-temperature treatment) is usually required before commercialization and it often affects the initial live colonies.
Fermented vegetables are also a valuable source of Bifidobacterium longum and general probiotic boosting. Their major advantage is that they can be found in pretty much any combination you could like – especially if you decide to make your own mixes and batches. Brine (salt plus water) is more preferable than vinegar as a fermentation base because the latter’s high acidity tends to negatively impact the probiotic cultures that either occur naturally or are added to accelerate the process. The most widespread options are sauerkraut, pickles, and olives, with Asian dishes like Kimchi, Miso soup, and Natto gaining popularity all across the globe.
Of course, probiotic supplements are the easiest and most practical form of Bifidobacterium longum enhancement on a regular basis. The latest advancements in the probiotic field have allowed companies to perfect their preservation techniques quite considerably, which means that you are more likely to ingest and hence benefit from a high number of viable cultures with each new serving (in the shape of a pill, powder measure, tablet, etc.). The aspects you should take into account for Bifidobacterium longum dietary enhancers are generally their number of ‘good’ bacteria per dosage (colony-forming units or CFUs for short), strain blend (singular or multi-strain recipes), and whether or not they require refrigeration for optimal results.
Probiotics and their side effects
Although it might seem particularly weird for ‘friendly’ microorganisms like probiotics to cause any negative influence on the human organism, you should know that there are specific circumstances in which this too can happen.
If you possess a more sensitive gastrointestinal tract, then you should expect your new probiotic regime to be accompanied by a series of temporary and mild side effects such as bloating, gas, and abdominal discomfort. Such symptoms are caused by your gut trying to accommodate the new bacterial colonies and should thus subside within a few days up to a week.
On the other hand, serious medical conditions like poor or even compromised immune responses must clearly be kept separate from probiotic supplementation (Bifidobacterium longum included). A weakened immunity increases the risk of bacterial transmutation and, as a consequence, of sepsis (a severe form of blood poisoning that can lead to death).
The same criteria of probiotic refraining apply if you have recently suffered an organ transplant, if you are undergoing medical treatment involving specific drugs (immunosuppressants, antidepressants, etc.) or if you struggle with any sort of serious, long-term affliction.
Regardless of your Bifidobacterium longum enhancement of choice, be sure to check with your doctor first and see if they give you the ‘thumbs up’ needed to start your new probiotic journey in a controlled fashion. These instances are relatively rare in the grand scheme of probiotic usage from all around the world, but it is always best to remain on the safe side of things.
Going for Bifidobacterium longum – a smart and healthy choice
At this point, the obvious conclusion would be that Bifidobacterium longum presents all the potential to offer you both physical and mental wellness in the future.
But the only way to find out whether Bifidobacterium longum is the probiotic for you is to give it a try and see what sort of advantages it has in store for you in particular.
Chances are you will be pleasantly surprised by this discovery!