Bifidobacteria: The most important questions and answers

Bifidobakterien: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

There is a wide variety of different groups of bacteria in your body. These include the healthy and important bifidobacteria, which are primarily responsible for your intestinal health. But what they are exactly, what effects they have on the body and health and where they occur is often not known to many.

Therefore, in this article, we will answer the most frequently asked questions about bifidobacteria and introduce foods that are rich in the bacteria. After this article you should know enough about the bifidobacteria.

the essentials in brief

  • There is a wide variety of bacteria in your body. Bifidobacteria are one group of these and are one of the good and important bacteria in your colon.
  • Bifidobacteria are primarily responsible for inhibiting harmful bacteria and pathogens. In addition to good intestinal health, the bacteria also affect other aspects such as your immune system or your skin.
  • You mainly ingest bifidobacteria through your food. Especially fermented products like yoghurt, kefir or sauerkraut are rich in bifidobacteria. But the tuber Jerusalem artichoke is also considered to be bifido-active.

Bifidobacteria: What you should know

In this part we answer the most important questions about bifidobacteria. After the part, you should know what bifidobacteria are, the different types, and what they are good for.

What are bifidobacteria?

Bifidobacteria belong to the group of healthy bacteria that settle in your digestive system to fight other bacteria and pathogens there. They primarily colonize the colon and promote healthy digestion and immune system boosting, making them a very important part of your digestive system.

Bifidobacteria are healthy bacteria that inhibit pathogens in your gut.

In healthy adult humans, the proportion of bifidobacteria in the digestive system is around 25%, in breastfed infants the value can even be more than 90%. In newborns, bifidobacteria are among the first microbial colonizers in the gut. Breast milk plays a major role here. They support the development of physiology and the maturation of the infant's immune system. (1)

Did you know that your age determines how many bifidobacteria you carry? The number of bifidobacteria in your body depends heavily on age.

The number of bifidobacteria is significantly lower in older people than in newborns. With increasing age, the number of bifidobacteria decreases. Taking antibiotics can also reduce the number of bifidobacteria. (2)

What do bifidobacteria do?

Due to their cleansing effect, bifidobacteria play an important role in your health and especially in your intestinal health. Several studies have shown that intestinal bacteria, especially bifidobacteria, contribute to the improvement of many diseases. (3)

Support of:
digestion Bifidobacteria support digestion by inhibiting harmful bacteria
immune system the stimulation of the cells have a positive effect on the immune system, and allergic diseases can also be reduced
vaginal health Bifidobacteria aid in women's reproductive health and help prevent vaginal infections
skin Bifidobacteria can promote the vitality of the skin and alleviate skin symptoms
depression Depressed people have fewer bifidobacteria in their intestinal flora

Bifidobacteria primarily support healthy digestion through their settlement. Bifidobacteria have been implicated in the production of a number of potentially health-promoting metabolites (intermediates in the metabolic pathway). (3)

In addition to supporting the digestive system, bifidobacteria can also help strengthen the immune system . By forming the bacteria and stimulating the cells, bifidobacteria have a positive effect on your immune system. Bifidobacteria can also reduce allergic diseases and risk factors for obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. (4)

Bifidobacteria also play an important role in women's reproductive health and help prevent vaginal infections. Disproportionately few bifidobacteria in the body are associated with an increased susceptibility to sexually transmitted infections and negative reproductive outcomes. (5)

Gut health affects many different aspects of your body. A good proportion of bifidobacteria supports intestinal health and can therefore also have a positive effect on improving your skin . Bifidobacteria can promote the vitality of the skin and even alleviate skin symptoms. (6)

Another study shows that bifidobacteria and depression are related. Accordingly, people suffering from depression have fewer bifidobacteria in their intestinal flora than other people. (7)

What are the different types of bifidobacteria?

There are different types of bifidobacteria that we can distinguish between. The frequency of occurrence of the different bacteria also depends on age. A distinction is made between:

  • Bifidobacteria longum
  • Bifidobacteria infantis
  • Bifidobacteria adolescentis
  • Bifidobacteria catenulatum
  • Bifidobacteria bifidum
  • Bifidobacteria breve
  • Bifidobacteria dentium

The Bifidobacteria longum is the group that occurs most frequently in investigations. The highest recognition rate could be shown for newborns and centenarians. (2) This bacterium can protect the intestinal mucosa from toxic effects, thereby preventing diarrhea. This group also supports lactose intolerance by aiding in the digestion of lactose in food.

Bifidobacteria infantis is only found in the digestive tract of breastfed infants. After weaning, the bacteria are replaced by Bifidobacteria adolescentis and Bifidobacteria bifidum.

Bifidobacteria adolescentis and Bifidobacteria catenulatum could be measured from the time children were weaned. (2)

Bifidobacteria bifidum could be detected in all age groups. (2) Although these bacteria are more common in children, numbers are also stable in adults. Above all, they promote the functions of the digestive system by inhibiting harmful bacteria. This group is also important for strengthening the immune system and can stimulate the formation of various B vitamins in the intestine.

Bifidobacteria breve has been found in about 70% of children under the age of 3 years. (2) This group colonizes the digestive tract and inhibits harmful bacteria.

In contrast to the other bifidobacteria, the number of Bifidobacteria dentium was higher in older people than in other age groups. (2)

What effect do bifidobacteria have on the intestinal flora?

The intestinal flora refers to the entirety of all intestinal bacteria that colonize the human intestine. A large part of the intestinal flora lives in the large intestine. There are over 400 different types of gut bacteria and the number is estimated at around 10 trillion. Among these many different types of gut bacteria are the bifidobacteria.

Bifidobacteria create good gut health. They are particularly effective in irritable bowel syndrome.

The bifidobacteria are probiotic microorganisms because they can fight dangerous intestinal bacteria and other pathogens. Thus, they ensure a healthy intestine. The bacteria convert sugary foods into acetic and lactic acid. These two acids cause a decrease in the number of dangerous intestinal bacteria and pathogens that make living conditions worse.

the gut

There are many bacteria in your gut. Bifidobacteria help to inhibit pathogens and ensure good intestinal health. (Image source: silviarita / pixabay)

Several studies have also shown that bifidobacteria can help to improve irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome is one of the most common intestinal diseases in Germany. This disease is characterized by abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, and a changed stool frequency and consistency. (8) It is already assumed that the absence of bifidobacteria in the digestive tract is responsible for, among other things, irritable bowel syndrome.

Do bifidobacteria help you lose weight?

Whether intestinal bacteria, like bifidobacteria, support weight loss and prevent obesity is being tested in several studies. The proliferation and reduction of certain types of bacteria within the intestinal flora are discussed as possible causes of obesity.

However, no concrete evidence for this discussion could be brought. But the results of the studies indicate that the interaction of several different microorganisms can have an impact on changes in the gut that could be partly responsible for obesity. (9)

A healthy intestinal flora and the proliferation of bifidobacteria also depends on the right diet. This should be high in fiber. This healthy and balanced diet then has an effect on your weight.

Are bifidobacteria lactic acid bacteria?

Lactic acid bacteria are bacteria that convert the sugars in food into lactic acid. A distinction is made here between lactobacteria and bifidobacteria.

Lactobacteria are a large group of different bacteria. All of these bacteria can convert sugars into lactic acid and get energy from carbohydrates. Lactobacteria are more likely to reside in the small intestine.

Bifidobacteria, on the other hand, live in the large intestine. They also produce lactic acid and thus create an environment in the intestine in which harmful bacteria and pathogens do not feel comfortable and are thus inhibited. Accordingly, both groups represent an important basis for your intestinal health.

Which foods contain bifidobacteria?

Bifidobacteria are primarily absorbed into your body through food. Probiotic foods are especially good for this. Food is said to be probiotic when it contains microorganisms that can survive in the gut. Probiotic foods therefore include foods that contain lactobacteria or bifidobacteria.

Foods with bifidobacteria important ingredients in addition to bifidobacteria
yogurt Calcium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2
kefir Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D
sauerkraut Vitamin C, vitamin B12, fiber
Jerusalem Artichoke Fiber, Antioxidants, Potassium, Iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2

In addition to these foods, you should also pay attention to a high-fiber diet. Dietary fibers help the bifidobacteria to colonize your intestines more easily. You can find fiber mainly in fruit, vegetables, whole grain products, nuts and seeds.


Probiotics are mainly found in lactic acid products such as yoghurt. Like lactobacteria, bifidobacteria convert sugars into lactic acid and are therefore a popular candidate in yoghurt cultures.


Fermented foods in particular contain many bifidobacteria. These include yoghurt, kefir or sauerkraut. (Image source: TerriC / pixabay)

Unpasteurized, natural yoghurt contains the highest percentage of bacterial cultures. For an even stronger probiotic effect than normal yoghurt, yoghurt can also be mixed with additional bacteria. For vegans, the soy yoghurt is particularly suitable as an alternative.


Kefir is a slightly sour, fizzy drink made from fermented cow's or goat's milk. During production, kefir grains are added to the milk and then fermented airtight for 1 - 2 days. After fermentation, the finished kefir contains carbonic and lactic acid, a small amount of alcohol and many healthy bacteria such as lactobacteria and, of course, bifidobacteria.

In addition to lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, the fizzy drink is also rich in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus and vitamins B12, B2 and D. Kefir is also available on a plant basis, such as with coconut milk. So there is also an alternative for vegans, but plant-based kefir types do not contain the same ingredients as traditional kefir made from cow's or goat's milk.


Another good supplier of bifidobacteria is sauerkraut. This is also a lactic acid product. When fermenting white and pointed cabbage, the addition of bacteria produces a high proportion of bifidobacteria. Sour cucumbers are also worth mentioning, as they also have a high proportion of bifidobacteria due to fermentation.

Did you know that not only dairy products can contain lactic acid? Plant-based products can also contain lactic acid.

This is caused by fermentation. In sauerkraut, lactic acid bacteria convert the white cabbage so that it ferments and becomes sauerkraut. Sauerkraut contains the most lactic acid bacteria when you make it fresh yourself. In packaged sauerkraut, these are often only found in small amounts.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke is a tuber from North and Central America which is considered to be extremely healthy. It is particularly low in calories and rich in fiber and can be used in the kitchen as a potato substitute. They can be eaten raw or cooked.

Jerusalem Artichoke

In addition to fermented foods, Jerusalem artichoke is also bifidoactive. You can process them like potatoes, but you can also enjoy them raw. (Image source: silviarita / pixabay)

The tuber contains inulin instead of starch and is therefore well suited for diabetics. This inulin is broken down in the large intestine by some bacteria in the intestinal flora. Bifidobacteria are also involved here. The tuber is considered to be bifido-active, which means that Jerusalem artichoke promotes the proliferation of good bifidobacteria. (10) In addition to bifidobacteria, the tuber is also rich in vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, niacin, and also the content of iron, potassium and calcium are higher compared to potatoes.


Bifidobacteria are particularly important when it comes to your gut health. They belong to the healthy bacteria and are responsible for eliminating dangerous bacteria and pathogens from the colon. Good gut health can then also have an impact on the condition of your skin and boosting your immune system.

You mainly ingest bifidobacteria through food. Infants already get the first bifidobacteria through breast milk and later you should switch to a high-fiber diet. And fermented milk products, sauerkraut or Jerusalem artichoke are also considered true supporters of your intestinal health.

You should not neglect your intestinal health and bifidobacteria, as the state of your intestinal flora can affect many other aspects of your body.


    Hidalgo-Cantabrana C, Delgado S, Ruiz L, Ruas-Madiedo P, Sánchez B, Margolles A. Bifidobacteria and Their Health-Promoting Effects. Microbial Spectr. 2017;5(3):10.1128/microbiolspec.BAD-0010-2016. doi:10.1128/microbiolspec.BAD-0010-2016 Source Kato K, Odamaki T, Mitsuyama E, Sugahara H, Xiao JZ, Osawa R. Age-Related Changes in the Composition of Gut Bifidobacterium Species. Curr Microbiol. 2017;74(8):987-995. doi:10.1007/s00284-017-1272-4 source Arboleya S, Watkins C, Stanton C, Ross RP. Gut Bifidobacteria Populations in Human Health and Aging. front microbiol. 2016;7:1204. Published 2016 Aug 19. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.01204 Source Lang, C. Lactobacillus – all-rounders for health?. Biospectrum 24, 23–26 (2018). Freitas AC, Hill JE. Quantification, isolation and characterization of Bifidobacterium from the vaginal microbiomes of reproductive aged women. anaerobic. 2017;47:145-156. doi:10.1016/j.anaerobe.2017.05.012 Source Fahrenhold, M. Healthy intestines, healthy skin. CME 17, 42-43 (2020). source Aizawa E, Tsuji H, Asahara T, et al. Possible association of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in the gut microbiota of patients with major depressive disorder. J Affect Disord. 2016;202:254-257. doi:10.1016/j.jad.2016.05.038 Source H. Krammer; P Enck (2008). Irritable bowel syndrome: What role do intestinal flora and probiotics play? Digestive diseases, volume 26, no. 4/2008, pp. 187-197. Dustri-Verlag Dr. Karl Feistle. ISSN 0174-738X Source Rueffer, Andreas & Eckert, Michaela & Ermisch, Maria & Krause, Diana & Niebling, Martina. (2014). Obesity - is the intestinal flora to blame? experiential medicine. 63. 206-210. 10.1055/s-0033-1357688. Source Baerwald, Günter. (2008). Lose weight healthily with Jerusalem artichoke. Stuttgart: TRIAS Verlag; 2nd updated edition. ISBN-13: 978-3830434559. Source
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