What is it?
Like its better-known bacterial cousin, acidophilus, the bifidobacteria group (also called ‘bifidus’) are considered a “probiotic.” One of the hundreds of beneficial bacteria that inhabit your body’s intestinal tract, bifidobacteria helps to fight off infection. Probiotics such as these are especially helpful in preventing the diarrhea that often results from antibiotic therapy. They ease other gastrointestinal conditions as well, including irritable bowel syndrome and flatulence. They also help to prevent vaginal and urinary tract infections, and counteract the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans.
Some studies suggest that probiotics may improve overall health by strengthening immunity, which declines with age. A 2001 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that volunteers given milk that contained bifidus showed an increase in white blood cells, which help fight off infection.
Probiotics may also help protect against colon cancer. They create an acidic environment in the intestine and neutralize the enzymes that convert precarcinogens into carcinogens. Animal studies have also shown that some probiotics directly inhibit the formation of tumor cells.
Bifidus is a “lactic acid bacteria.” For people who are lactose intolerant or cannot digest the natural sugars in milk, bifidus and other probiotics, such as acidophilus, can help. As they boost your body’s ability to digest milk sugars, probiotics reduce bloating and gassiness. They are useful in combating bad breath, too.
Although diary products such as milk or yogurt can be fortified with acidophilus or bifidus, they are an unreliable source for therapeutic levels of probiotics. Most such products do not contain a sufficient quantify of “active” or live bacteria–generally considered to be a minimum of one billion live organisms per dose. For this reason, supplements may be a better choice.
Bifidus is available in capsules or powders, often in combination with acidophilus or fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), indegistible dietary fibers that also stimulate the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.
It’s important to read the label of all bifidus or bifidus-acidophilus combination products to be sure that the cultures are active. Check the expiration date, too, and always refrigerate your probiotic supplements. Both heat and freezing temperatures will kill the live bacteria.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with bifidus.
See a doctor if you are experiencing the symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection for the first time. Not all such infections are caused by the fungus (Candida albicans) which probitics such as acidophilus and bifidus help counteract. In fact, probiotics might even worsen problems caused by other organisms.
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David Edelberg, MD