As I wrote previously, Bifidobacteria are a type of healthy bacteria commonly included in probiotic supplements that have great potential for integrating into the gut microbial ecosystem and contributing positively to your health. This process leads to the Bifidogenic Effect. But what do we mean by Bifidogenic Effect and how does it work?
First, it’s important to note that Bifidobacteria is an umbrella term used to refer to many different species of bacteria all belonging to the genus Bifidobacterium. ‘Species’ and ‘genus’ are kind of like the scientific ‘first’ and ‘last’ names for living things. For those of you consuming probiotic supplements, you may have noticed that the names of some of the active cultures in the supplement read B. bifidum, B. longum. Here, the ‘B.’ refers to Bifidobacterium and the rest of the name refers to the species.
Increases in the abundance of most Bifidobacteria species are generally associated with the benefits we obtain from having a healthy gut, including reduced constipation, diarrhea prevention, regular bowel movements, reduced gut inflammation, and increased production of energy in the form of short chain fatty acids. Stimulating the growth of a diverse number of Bifidobacteria species will help to ensure that you enjoy these benefits – collectively called the Bifidogenic Effect.
Researchers have determined that certain species of Bifidobacterium are associated with specific health benefits. Here are a couple of these associations.
Bifidobacterium adolescentis is one of the first bacteria to colonize the digestive tract in newborns and plays an important role in the production of vitamins, like folate, in the gut. B. adolescentis also degrades a substance called phytic acid, which is normally found in large amounts in seeds and nuts, and strongly interferes with the body’s ability to absorb minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron. People at risk of osteoporosis or iron deficiency anemia may benefit from increased B. adolescentis levels, which will promote the absorption of calcium and iron from the diet.
Bifidobacterium pseudocatenulatum promotes folate production and mineral absorption, like B. adolescentis, but promotes other health benefits. Perhaps most importantly, B. pseudocatenulatum inhibits the chronic inflammation associated with the development of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease in animal models. It is important to be cautious when interpreting scientific research and trying to apply new discoveries to improve your health. But the probiotic and prebiotic supplements used to boost populations of Bifidobacteria in your gut are safe, so you can feel confident introducing these products as you seek to improve your health.
While individual strains of Bifidobacteria are thought to be responsible for particular health benefits, having a diverse gut microbiome is generally more important than adding a particular strain. Indeed, the combination of having diversity and significant numbers of Bifidobacteria in your gut microbiome is the key to reaping the benefits of the Bifidogenic Effect.
In a future blog post, I will discuss how to fuel the Bifidogenic Effect and how your dietary choices have a major impact on the effectiveness of probiotic supplements.