The Bifidobacterium species are the bacteria mostly found in the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) and vagina. In the colon, Bifidobacterium longum works by fermenting sugars into lactic acid. This helps to regulate and lower the pH of the gut and intestines.
B. longum is a non-motile, anaerobe bacterium, which simply means it doesn’t create spores and cannot travel ‘freely’ within the body. B. longum also grows and develops best in environments with low amounts of oxygen.
Most strains of Bifidobacterium are naturally present in fermented dairy foods such as yogurt. It’s also abundant in fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kimchi. For convenience, it can also be taken in supplement form.
Being a rather versatile probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum is able to survive harsh conditions in the gut. Unlike some probiotics, it isn’t affected by stomach acid, bile, pH fluctuations or the passage through the gastrointestinal tract. Instead, it supports the gut by adhering to the lining of the intestines right through to the colon.
Strains of Bifidobacterium longum are most commonly found in babies and children, usually after being transmitted from the mother during natural birth and breastfeed. Children born via Caesarean or fed on formula may lack this important bacterium. Supplementation in this case is highly recommended as colonization of B. longum can play a major role in the development of the gastrointestinal system for the rest of their life.
Studies have shown that B. longum has a powerful effect on the immune system, helping to strengthen the body’s defenses against harmful pathogens. In infants, B. longum has been shown to activate the anti-poliovirus response, as well as improving their resistance to respiratory tract infections. B. longum is particularly important for older people, with evidence that it boosts the immune systems of the elderly.
When tested in mice infected with influenza, B. longum was found to improve their symptoms and reduce their mortality, as well as reducing inflammation in the lower respiratory tract.
Bifidobacterium longum is an excellent treatment for digestive issues such as lactose intolerance. It helps to break down most sugars in food, including lactose.
Bifidobacterium longum has also been shown to help prevent constipation, reduce inflammation caused by certain bowel conditions, prevent high cholesterol levels and help prevent the development of certain allergies.
Those with ulcerative colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or E. coli have found relief with B. longum supplementation. It helps to reduce intestinal inflammation and has been reported to provide relief from IBS symptoms without the negative side effects of pharmaceutical medications. Patients say it reduces their abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating and distention, as well as easing bowel movements.
Some studies even suggest that it helps in metabolizing fats, which has associated B. longum supplementation with better cholesterol levels. One study showed that B. longum reduced total cholesterol, especially in people with moderate hypercholesterolemia. It also helped to reduce liver lipid deposition and adipocyte size, and improved liver and kidney function in rats with hypercholesterolemia.