April 20, 2021
A Monthly Microbe feature for the International Probiotic Association, written by Allison Tannis.
Bifidobacterium longum is one of the first guests to arrive in your proverbial gut microbiome party – and, it is the kind of guest you want to have in the crowd! Bifidobacterium longum is a pretty cool looking microbe, a real crowd-pleaser, with some fascinating party antics, including being able to talk up a crowd, sort of improving the mood among your microbial guests. You won’t believe how Bifidobacterium longum can schmooze with the other microbes in your gut to get them to improve your health. There are many reasons to celebrate that Bifidobacterium longum is one of the most well-established probiotic species in the gut. Come meet this Monthly Microbe, Bifidobacterium longum. Discover why Bifidobacterium longum is the ultimate party guest in your gut microbiome.
Your gut harbors a complex and dynamic microbial scene, host to trillions of microorganisms. It is one crowded, dynamic party! There is one guest who can really work the crowd: meet Bifidobacterium longum. Let’s discover why this guest’s crowd-working skills are so helpful to health.
You can find bifidobacteria probiotics in the most densely populated section of your proverbial gut party - in the large intestine. And, it’s got a look that turns heads – it’s not the same rod-like shape you see with the big celebrities, likeLactobacillus acidophilus. Scientists call this family of probiotics, bifidobacteria, because they are bifid in shape. Bifid is a shape that has two separate lobes or parts, kind of like the letter Y. Bifidobacterium longum has a thin, elongated bifid structure that you could describe as a Y shape – it is a real crowd-pleaser to look at.
During birth, babies are exposed to mom’s microbiome, a common place to find Bifidobacterium longum. Breastmilk contains a lot of Bifidobacterium longum, explaining why there’s can be a lot of this cool microbe found in a baby’s gut. When scientists discovered high numbers of bifidobacteria in the gut of breast-fed infants, it propelled greater understanding of the beneficial relationship us humans have with our microbes – cool fact!
Bifidobacterium longum is one of the first guests to arrive at your microbial party - what researchers describe as an early colonizer. But, this guest doesn’t just arrive early to the party – it’s pretty good at sticking around for a while: some early colonizing Bifidobacterium longum strains have been found to stick around in the microbial party for 6 years in kid studies. But, this party guest seems to wane as the years go on.
Bifidobacterium longum is one of the most abundant species of probiotics in the gut microbiome in early years. This probiotic species is present in high amounts with other bifidobacterial species during infancy, but the presence of species of bifidobacteria that make up your proverbial gut party change with age. The level is lower but relatively stable in adults. To get geeky about it, researcher suggest populations of bifidobacteria occupy only about 3-6% of the adult gut microbiota. There are benefits to having Bifidobacterium longum in abundance – let’s take a closer look (no microscope required).
Yes, an early guest that is pretty to look at, Bifidobacterium longum has a lot to offer – so much, one can jokingly describe it as the ultimate guest at the gut microbiome party. Why? This party guest enters the gut with ease, feels comfortable in that environment, enjoys sticking around at the party, and quickly changes any crowd’s mood into an upbeat, positive vibe. Talk about a great guest!
Bifidobacterium longum loves to strike up a conversation with other microbes in the gut. It’s something scientists call cross-talk. It can talk to your gut’s microbes and persuades some of them, in part, by offering them a little party snack, to metabolize more butyrate, a by-product. The party snacks for this probiotic are prebiotics, which can include fibersProbiotics can ferment certain fibers to create short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate. This is great! Butyrate helps improve the intestinal barrier. Butyrate is the main energy source of the cells that line your colon and plays a role in inhibiting inflammation. Inflammation in the colon can really put a damper on a microbial gut party.
Probiotics are microbes that elicit a health benefit in the host. By using its cross-talking, crowd-working abilities, Bifidobacterium longum gets some other helpful guests in the microbiome to make short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, which help to lower the pH of the microbiome, making it less hospitable to unwanted party guests, such as pathogenic bacteria. Pathogenic bacteria are sort of like party crashers who toss their empty cups and garbage all over the place, making the environment toxic and hostile. Bifidobacterium longum is a party guest that doesn’t make your gut an easy place for party crashers to hang out.
It’s impressive how Bifidobacterium longum can talk to a crowd and get results! Bifidobacterium longum also chats it up with the other bifidobacteria, rallying that team to work together to help break down complex carbohydrates into more simple sugars which others guests at the gut microbiome party can use. This cool interaction is what scientists call cross-feeding.
This impressive microbe can also talk this crowd into making more biotin which is needed for gut homeostasis - more simply put biotin helps the digestive system process proteins, carbohydrates, and fatty acids, as well as produce cholesterol.
As for those carbohydrates, Bifidobacterium longum is impressive with them – 12% of this probiotic species’ genes are recipes to make enzymes involved in carbohydrate metabolism. Of note, it appears what you eat is a major influencer in how abundant this amazing party guest, Bifidobacterium longum is in your gut microbiome – with the consumption of processed foods being unhelpful.
One of the biggest party poopers can be constipation. If your visits to the porcelain throne have been anything but a party, it’s possible Bifidobacterium longum isn’t present in high abundance. This microbe has been shown in a dozen randomized controlled trials to improve how often constipated adults go poop! When Bifidobacterium longum is in the crowd, it seems to encourage more bifidobacteria, and other beneficial microbes to join the party. Scientists think that Bifidobacterium longum helps restore the homeostasis in your microbiome so your gut is hosting the perfect mix of guests! This is great news.
More party antics of Bifidobacterium longum could be described as talking up the microbial party security guards, helping them do a better job of keeping the host healthy. Scientists have found microbes, like Bifidobacterium longum,help the immune system do a better job. How does it work? Bifidobacterium longum can talk to the body’s security guards. Research studies suggest Bifidobacterium longum promotes the production interleukins and TNF-alpha, which play a role in the immune response. It’s sort of like saying special codewords over the radios to get the security guards moving at the microbial party, if needed.
There’s a party going on in your gut, and there’s billions of microbes involved, including cool probiotics, like Bifidobacterium longum. Want to keep the party giggling? Try throwing this microbiome fact out at your next party: about 50% of fecal mass is bacteria.
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