Bifidobacteria: what is it, benefits for the body

What do we know about bifidobacteria? Often nothing but the name itself and fragmentary information taken from TV commercials about their usefulness for the human body, which although true, but still superficial.

In order to fill these information gaps, let’s consider what strains of these microorganisms exist, learn about their functions, their role in digestion and metabolism, their influence on immunity, as well as about what microorganisms they are antagonistic to and much more.

Bifidobacteria (Latin: Bifidobacterium) belong to the genus Gram-positive anaerobic bacteria. The name comes from the Latin bifidus, “divided in two,” and bacteria. They are non-spore-forming, slightly curved sticks from 2 to 5 µm long, sometimes with bifidization, thinning or thickening at the ends in the form of globular swellings. Of all bacteria it is they have the most significant representation in the human body. During the period of breastfeeding they constitute 80-90% of the normal intestinal flora of children. Most of them are in the large intestine and are the basis of its parietal and cavitary microflora. Arranged their cells singly, in pairs, V-shaped, and sometimes in the form of chains or rosettes. With their participation, populations of putrefactive and pathogenic microbes are suppressed.

Bifidobacteria: what is it, benefits for the body

Currently, 24 strains of bifidobacteria have been isolated (identified). The most studied are B. bifidum, B. adolescentis, B. breve, B. longum, B. infantis, B. pseudolongum, B. thermophilum, etc. Of these, the following species have attracted increased attention of researchers: B. infantis, B. longum, and B. bifidum, since these species are the most frequently implicated in the intestines of breastfed children. Read more

Functions of Bifidobacteria

These small cells, along with other representatives of the useful intestinal microflora perform or regulate the many functions of the human body. During their life, they produce organic acids that contribute to the establishment of a normal intestinal environment.

Bifidobacteria have a pronounced microbial antagonism. They prevent the development of pathogenic, conditionally pathogenic, putrefactive and contribute to flatulence harmful intestinal microflora, which is a significant factor in protecting the body – especially at an early age! – from the development of infections and pathological processes in the intestines in general. Together with other beneficial intestinal microorganisms are actively and directly involved in digestion and absorption. Contribute to the enzymatic digestion of food, because with their help increases the hydrolysis of proteins, fermented carbohydrates, and saponified fats and dissolved fiber. In addition, intestinal peristalsis is stimulated, which contributes to the evacuation of its contents without any problems.

They are also involved in the synthesis and absorption of vitamins – in particular, group B, vitamin K, folic and nicotinic acids. Bifidobacteria contribute to the synthesis of essential amino acids, with their participation calcium salts and vitamin D are better absorbed. Anti-anemic, anti-rachitis and anti-allergic actions are also characteristic of these beneficial microorganisms.

Another important function of bifidobacteria is participation in immunological reactions of the body (that is, they strengthen immunity). They stimulate the lymphatic system, the synthesis of immunoglobulins. Thanks to their participation, the activity of lysozyme increases and the permeability of vascular tissue barriers to toxic products of pathogenic and conditionally pathogenic organisms decreases.

When there is no dysbacteriosis, bifidobacteria present in the intestines actively produce acetic and lactic acids, lower the pH. Lactic acid inhibits the development of pathogenic, gas-forming and putrefactive flora, stimulating, on the contrary, the growth of beneficial microorganisms. In addition, it improves the absorption of nutrients, stimulates the secretory function of digestive glands and intestinal peristalsis. Changing the pH-medium (acidic) has an antibacterial effect. It is proved that lactic acid bacteria reduce the incidence of salmonellosis and can affect the causative agent of tuberculosis, staphylococci and other microorganisms. Restore the normal balance of the intestinal microflora after a massive antibiotic therapy.

Read also: Figs: vitamin content and benefits for the body

When the growth and development of bifidobacteria, for some reason insufficient, and the presence in the intestine is reduced, the opposite processes occur: activation of parasitic microflora, nutrient absorption is reduced, intestinal peristalsis worsens, constipation or diarrhea occur, increased risk of intestinal infections. Dysbacteriosis, if it is not eliminated, leads to such ailments as allergies, gastritis, duodenal and gastric ulcers. It reduces the body’s immune response, there is increased fatigue and decreased intellectual activity.

Veronika Sergunina
Veronika Sergunina
7 years of experience in nutritional medicine Nutritionist, Child Nutritionist
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To prevent dysbacteriosis, a person should regularly eat products with bifidobacteria, and these are primarily fermented dairy products (e.g. kefir). The benefits of the latter are proved by the fact that they are assimilated by the body almost completely, while milk only by 32%. But if the microflora is already disturbed, for a more rapid and pronounced effect take preparations containing more bifidobacteria (probiotics), preferably in liquid form - when the bacteria in it are active and, in addition, contain products of the vital activity of bifidobacteria.

The benefits of bifidobacteria

What exactly is the benefit of the body of such products? Thanks to the bifidobacteria they contain, allergic reactions in the body are reduced, immunity is strengthened, blood cholesterol levels and the risk of malignant tumors are reduced, etc. Fact: just a few weeks after drinking fermented milk products or taking biologically active
Probiotics stop the processes of self-purification and putrefactive processes in intestines, normal operation of liver and kidneys starts to be restored.

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Many people in the modern world are overweight and obese to various degrees, which leads to unhealthy eating habits, abuse of sweets and flour. Those desperate to lose weight can be helped by the very bifidobacteria contained in fermented dairy products. So, the use of kefir by such patients is doubly effective: as a diuretic, it contributes to the removal of excess fluid from the body slimming, and as containing beneficial microflora – cleansing the intestines and accelerate metabolism. Kefir is used in so-called mono-diet (kefir diet), as well as a product used in the discharge days, which are part of other common diets.

Many people probably think that bifidobacteria live exclusively in the human body. In fact, they do not. They are found in warm-blooded animals. Especially of great importance are newborn animals, actively participating in the formation of their immune status. From the moment an animal is born, bifidobacteria together with representatives of other useful microflora stimulate the lymphatic system, participate in the formation of the general pool of immunoglobulins and form a nonspecific defense.

Certified nutritionist and child nutritionist, health-coach and personal trainer in fitness and bodybuilding.
7 years of experience in nutritional medicine

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