What is Bifidobacterium Longum?
Before we can answer the question “What is Bifidobacterium Longum & health benefits?” we need to be sure we understand what it is.
If we look it up, we get the answer that it is a Gram-positive, rod-shaped species of bacteria. But for that to make sense, we need to understand what Gram-positive means.
Since I am trying to write an article that can be understood by non-medical people, perhaps we should go back to the beginning and start with what ”Gram-positive” means first.
Gram-positive is a term used in bacteriology that means the bacteria gives a positive reading in a gram stain test. gram-positive bacteria are bacteria that have thick walls made of peptidoglycan[i]
So, going back to our original question, “What is Bifidobacterium Longum & health benefits?” We now know that Bifidobacterium Longum is a species of bacteria with thick walls made of peptidoglycan. It is one of the first bacteria to set up home in an infant’s gut. It is part of the gut microbiota and produces lactic acid.
Inside our guy, and in other places in our body, we have colonies of bacteria and archaea that have set up home. We are not alone in having these colonies; many different animals and insects also play host to microorganisms.
These colonies start to get established between one and two years after birth. In most cases, these colonies are commensal (which means - a non-harmful coexistence), but in some cases, these colonies are mutualistic (which means the bacteria and humans benefit).
Bifidobacterium Longum seems to be in that latter group, and their presence may improve the human immune response and help to prevent some gut disorders. There is also some evidence (early stage) that Bifidobacterium Longum (often called B.longum( may also do the following:
· Suppress allergies
· Reduce cholesterol
· Improve skin health
B. Longum initially is the biggest colony of bacteria in an infant’s gut, comprising over 90% of the total bacteria there. This percentage will drop as the body matures, and by adulthood, the figure is typically around 3% as other forms of bacteria arrive and dominate.
Some strains of B.Longum have developed an ability to survive the gastric acid and bile so that they can colonize the gastrointestinal tract. And exist in the lower small and large intestines. The thick wall mentioned early has properties that allow it to hold on to the intestinal wall. Fatty acids also help this adhesion.
As stated, B.Longum is part of a mutually beneficial relationship with its human host. Still, occasionally things go wrong, and there have been cases where B.Longum infection has occurred (mostly in preterm infants), but there have been reports in adults as well. In adults, the cases have resulted in peritonitis and sepsis. [ii]
The scientific term for the groups of bacteria that colonize different parts of your body is Flora. We all have flora; at this very moment, you have colonies of bacteria that call your body home. Flora does not just exist inside your gut; it also occurs elsewhere on your body (e.g. skin).
Gut flora refers to the host of bacteria that inhabit your digestive system. These bacteria are called a variety of names (gut bacteria, Microbiota, Microbiome, intestinal flora, and Microflora). It is estimated that there are over 1,000 types of microbes in your body. These microbes may be tiny, but they play a massive part in your general well-being. Two of the main functions are your metabolism and your immune system.[iii]
Our original question was, “What is Bifidobacterium Longum & health benefits?” so we will now move onto the health benefits of B.Longum.
There has been some research into B.Longum, which resulted in its incorporation into VSL#3, which is a standardized formula of live bacteria used to treat ulcerative colitis, together with other therapies. This formulation requires a prescription and is not generally available.
There have also been studies that showed B.Longum could shorten and minimize suffering caused by the common cold.
A strain of B.Longum was isolated that is now sold in the USA and Canada as “Align,” and in the UK and the rest of Europe as “Alflorex.” Align is promoted as a probiotic resolving:
· Occasional digestive upsets
· Digestive imbalance
· An aid to maintain healthy bowel function
Many probiotics are sold in the USA as dietary supplements, and as such, are not required to have FDA approval. The manufacturer may make claims about how the product affects the body without FDA approval, but they are not allowed to health claims saying something like the product lowers your chance of getting a disease. This regulation is why at the bottom of the manufacturer’s website for “Align,” it states that this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. [iv] [v]
Interestingly, under different regulations in the UK, Alflorex, when advertised on the website of the leading pharmacy chain in the UK (Boots), does not make one single claim about what the product does. It merely describes the product as a food supplement. [vi]
From the above article, we have learned that Bifidobacterium Longum (B.Longum) is a species of bacteria that colonizes human digestive systems. By and large, it has a mutually beneficial relationship with its human host and serves to assist with various digestive issues. It has initially been implanted into the infant from the mother and stays with us for life.
There are now probiotic products marketed to boost this colony of bacteria in our gut, and these products are sold worldwide. Probiotic tablets each contain billions of bacteria to increase the existing colony in your gut.
In this series of articles on types of enzymes and the unseen organisms that inhabit our body, we have discovered how tiny living creatures and chemical substances have such a significant effect on our overall health. In particular, in this article, we have answered the question about “what is Bifidobacterium Longum & health benefits?” We hope that it has proved useful.
[i] The Medical Dictionary
[iii] VeryWell Health (Barbara Bolen, Ph.D.)
[iv] Align Website
[v] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
[vi] Boots Pharmacy