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Bifidobacteria

What is it?

Bifidobacteria species are probiotics ("good" bacteria) that live in the intestines. They may help with diarrhea, constipation, and other intestinal disorders.

"Good" bacteria such as bifidobacteria can help break down food, absorb nutrients, and fight off "bad" organisms that might cause diseases.

Bifidobacteria are commonly used for diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They're also used for preventing the common cold or flu, and lots of other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support many of these uses. There is also no good evidence to support using bifidobacteria for COVID-19.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for BIFIDOBACTERIA are as follows:

Possibly effective for...

  • Constipation. Taking a certain bifidobacteria strain (Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis) by mouth can help relieve constipation. But not all strains of bifidobacteria seem to work.
  • A digestive tract infection that can lead to ulcers (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori). Taking bifidobacteria plus lactobacillus by mouth along with standard therapy for H. pylori might help get rid of the infection better than just taking standard H. pylori therapy alone. But it's not clear if it helps with the side effects from standard therapy.
  • A long-term disorder of the large intestines that causes stomach pain (irritable bowel syndrome or IBS). Taking certain bifidobacteria strains, especially Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 (Align or Bifantis), by mouth seems to help with IBS. But it's not clear if it helps with anxiety and depression in people with IBS.
  • Infection of the airways. Taking certain bifidobacteria strains by mouth helps prevent airway infections such as the common cold in otherwise healthy people. But it doesn't seem to help people who have other serious health issues.

Possibly ineffective for...

  • Decline in memory and thinking skills that occurs normally with age. Taking bifidobacteria by mouth does not seem to improve thinking and memory skills in older adults.
  • Infection of the gastrointestinal tract by bacteria called Clostridium difficile. Taking bifidobacteria by mouth does not prevent diarrhea caused by this infection.
  • Blood infection (sepsis). Adding bifidobacteria to infant formula does not prevent sepsis in premature babies.
There is interest in using bifidobacteria for a number of other purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

How does it work?

Are there safety concerns?

When taken by mouth: Bifidobacteria are likely safe for healthy adults. In some people, treatment with bifidobacteria might upset the stomach and intestine, causing diarrhea, bloating and gas.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy: A specific strain of bifidobacteria, Bifidobacterium bifidum, is possibly safe when taken by mouth appropriately for 6 weeks while pregnant. There isn't enough reliable information about the safety of taking other strains.

Breastfeeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if bifidobacteria is safe to use when breastfeeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Children: Bifidobacteria are likely safe for healthy children when taken by mouth appropriately. Although there have been cases of blood infection with bifidobacteria in critically ill infants, these cases are rare.

Weakened immune system: Some probiotics have caused blood infections in a small number of people with weakened immune systems. This includes people with HIV/AIDS or cancer, or people who are taking medications to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ. There is a chance that bifidobacteria might also increase the risk for infection. If you have a weakened immune system, talk with your healthcare provider before taking bifidobacteria.

Blockage in the intestines: Bifidobacteria has caused blood infections in a small number of infants who have had stomach surgery. It is thought that this is because the intestines became blocked, and the bacteria crossed into the blood stream. Bifidobacteria should be used cautiously or avoided in infants with stomach or intestinal blockages.

Are there interactions with medications?

Moderate
Be cautious with this combination.
Antibiotic drugs
Bifidobacteria are a type of friendly bacteria. Antibiotics are used to reduce harmful bacteria in the body. Taking antibiotics along with bifidobacteria might reduce the effects of bifidobacteria. To avoid this interaction, take bifidobacteria products at least two hours before or after antibiotics.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

In adults, bifidobacteria has most often been taken by mouth alone or together with other probiotics, especially lactobacillus, in doses of 3-20 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) daily, for up to 16 weeks. In children, bifidobacteria has most often been taken by mouth alone or together with other probiotics, especially lactobacillus, in doses of 2-10 billion CFUs daily, for up to 12 weeks.

Other names

B. Bifidum, B. Breve, B. Infantis, B. lactis, B. Longum, Bifido, Bifido Bacterium Longum, Bifidobacterias, Bifidobactérie, Bifidobactéries, Bifidobacterium, Bifidobacterium adolescentis; Bifidobacterium animalis, Bifidobacterium bifidum; Bifidobacterium breve; Bifidobacterium infantis; Bifidobacterium lactis; Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidum, Bifidus, Bifidus Brevis, Bifidus Infantis, Bifidus Longum, Bifidobacteria Bifidus, Lactobacillus Bifidus, L. Bifidus, Probiotic, Probiotique.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

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Last reviewed - 06/17/2021