Imagine this…you are 8 years old, surrounded by bullies, when suddenly your big brother shows up to scare them off.
Or… a quick stop at the bank turns into a nightmare when masked men try to rob it, but the SWAT team shows up and saves the day.
These are classic good guys vs. bad guys stories and we all cheer when the good guys win.
Believe it or not, a similar scene takes place daily in your gut. It is between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. If the “bad guys” get the upper hand, your health is at stake.
Bifidobacterium longum, a probiotic, is one of the good guys for your gut health. Its main job is to control and maintain the health of your intestinal tract. It keeps the “bad guys” from taking over in your gut.
Take a Probiotic – Help the Good Guys
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeast that provide health benefits to you and your digestive system. Cultured (yogurt) and fermented foods (sauerkraut, kefir) naturally have probiotics and are recommended to keep your digestive flora in balance. However, thanks to stress, our environment, a high sugar diet, contaminated food, and other factors, our good bacteria may need “reinforcements” in the form of a probiotic supplement.
Bifidobacterium Longum – for Constipation and More
If you are suffering from periodic constipation, you may want to look at a probiotic that has Bifidobacterium longum as one of the active species in it.
Bifidobacterium longum (B. longum) has been found to increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut and is stable enough to reach the intestines alive. This is an important factor in its ability to be effective.
A study was done that looked at the frequency and consistency of bowel movements in nursing home residents. The results found that those residents who ate an oat cereal that was fermented with B. longum were able to normalize their bowel movements.(1)
In addition, B. longum lowers the pH levels in the colon which in turn improves muscle contractions, allowing for enhanced regularity.
But not all B. longum are created equal…
If you are going to use a probiotic containing B. longum, you need to pay attention to these five specific things when choosing…
1) Verified Probiotic Strains
When bacteria are named, they are given a genus, species, and strain. The strain of the bacteria is the “subtype” that sets it apart from other subtypes. Each strain is unique and the strain name identifies its ability to be effective for a particular symptom.
For example the “BB536” strain of Bifidobacterium Longum is a specific strain that:
- Helps with constipation caused by a reduced calorie diet.(2)
- Shortens the amount of time food takes to get through the digestive tract.(3)
- Softens your stool.(3)
- Regulates and improves frequency of bowel movements.(4)
These functions help when you are already constipated, but more importantly can reduce the chance of becoming constipated.
Take home: Check the “Supplement Facts” on the probiotics bottle you are researching to be sure that an effective, well-researched strain of Bifidobacterium Longum (like BB536) is listed.
2) The Right Clinical Dose
If you look at the bottle of any probiotic you will see that the various species are quantified by the number of cells in each dose. This is because they are living organisms.
In the case of Bifidobacterium longum BB536, you want to make sure you are getting 2 billion cells per day minimum since this is the dose shown in the clinical studies to get you the digestive benefits.
Also, B. longum only functions effectively for 7 days in the gut so it is important to replenish daily. This is another reason that taking a supplement is helpful since most people would have trouble eating cultured and fermented foods daily. In addition, keeping levels high enables this bacteria to reproduce.
Take home: Choose a probiotic supplement that contains at least 2 billion cells of B. longum BB536. Or if you choose another B. longum strain, make sure you are getting the clinically studied dosage. Be sure to eat a balanced diet including fiber as this will help to feed the good bacteria in your gut.
3) 2 Year Shelf Life
The “shelf life” of probiotics is particularly important since we are talking about living cells. Good quality supplements come from manufacturers that take into account the number of live cultures that may die before the consumer gets a chance to take them.
Each strain has a fairly predictable survival rate. So, for example, if a strain has a 50% survivability curve after 2 years, and the product claims that you will get 2 billion cells, then 4 billion must be put into the product during manufacturing, to last through the 2-year expiration date.
Take home: Purchase your probiotic from a trusted source that values scientific evidence. Use your product within the expiration date found on the packaging.
4) Survives the Stomach
The ability of any probiotic to survive the high acid content of the stomach is critical to its effectiveness. The pH level of the gastric acid in your stomach is 1 to 3, which is also the level of battery acid. Your gut is quite a hostile environment!
Bifidobacterium longum BB536 has a high stability rate and long survival rate in studies done at varying temperatures.(6) It is a pretty hardy bug.
Some manufacturers take the added step to ensure survival by putting it in an enteric capsule. This is a chemical coating that is acid-resistant. The process is complex and increases the cost of the end product. Inadvertently, it may also kill some of the good bacteria due to the heat that is required for the process.
An alternative is to use acid-resistant capsules that bypass the harsh acidic environment in the stomach and protect the sensitive probiotics inside. An added bonus is that they mask the taste and odor and reduce the risk of reflux.
Take home: Look for a probiotic with a proven delivery system that protects the probiotics from the harsh acid in your stomach, ensuring they survive the stomach and make it to your intestines alive.
5) Effective Packaging and Storage
There are three things that pose a threat to the billions of cells in the capsule – heat, water, and air. Optimally your probiotic should be individually wrapped in a double aluminum blister pack to keep out moisture and light.
There are also several steps a manufacturer can take before your probiotic reaches you, to ensure the survivability of the good bugs. The use of a nitrogen blanket can aid in protecting against the effects of oxygen that occur right before a capsule is enclosed in the blister pack. A climate controlled warehouse can also protect the strains from warmer temperatures that can lead to a faster die off.
Take home: Be sure that you choose a probiotic that comes individually wrapped. Keep your probiotic in a dry, cool location. Refrigeration is ideal but not necessary if your product was manufactured correctly.
Final Thoughts on This Wonder Strain
Bifidobacterium longum is naturally present in our guts from birth. However, as we age and are exposed to antibiotics, contaminated food, toxins, stress, etc., that number can dwindle, making it unable to reproduce fast enough.
The gut is the battlefield for your immediate and long-term health. Approximately 70% of your immune system cells are located in some part of the digestive tract. B. longum attaches itself to the walls of your intestine, preventing dangerous bacteria from finding a place to settle.
Consider all these positive aspects of the B. longum BB536 wonder strain:
- Most researched and effective probiotic, with over 50 published human clinical studies.(7)
- Stable enough to reach the intestines alive.(7)
- Supports a healthy immune system.(7)
- A natural defense against constipation.(7)
- A natural defense against loose stool.(7)
- Helps with gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal discomfort.(7)
Eating healthy foods rich in naturally occurring probiotics, as well as taking a quality supplement that includes Bifidobacterium longum sets your immune system and gut up for success.
1. Pitkala, KH and Standberg, TE and Finne Soveri, UH and Ouwehand, AC and Poussa, T and Salminen, S(2007) Fermented cereal with specific bifidobacteria normalizes bowel movements in elderly nursing home residents. A randomized, controlled trial. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17653486
2. Leung, Lawrence MBBChir, FRACGP, FRCGP and Riutta, Taylor, MD and Koetcha, Jyoti, MPA, MRSC and Rosser, Walter MD, MRCGP, FCFP (2011) Chronic Constipation: An Evidenced-Based Review. Retrieved from http://www.jabfm.org/content/24/4/436.full
3. Dimidi, Eirini and Christodoulides, Stephanos and Fragkos, Konstantinos C. and Scott, S. Mark and Whelan, Kevin (2014) The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2014/08/06/ajcn.114.089151.
4. Kondo, Junko and Xiao, Jin-Zhong and Shirahata, Akira and Baba, Mieko and Abe, Akie (2013) Modulatory effects of Bifidobacterium longum BB536 on defecation in elderly patients receiving enteral feeding. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3627880/
5. US National Library of Medicine (1995-2016) Bifidobacteria. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/891.html
6. Morinaga. B. longum BB536 Retrieved from http://www.morinu.com/en/b-longumbb536
7. Maypro. Morinaga BB536. Retrieved from http://maypro.com/products/morinaga-bb536
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the Power of Nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should you eat? Which supplements? What does the science say?
I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.
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