What Is It?
Health Benefits

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction

Possible Side Effects


Evidence Based Rating Scale


What Is It?

Like its better-known cousin acidophilus, the bifidobacteria group (often simply called Bifidus) is considered ”probiotic” bacteria because it helps to maintain intestinal health and serve as a natural Antibiotic against potentially harmful organisms.

Bifidobacteria are one of the hundreds of beneficial bacteria species that inhabit the body's intestinal tract and help to fight off infection. Taking Bifidus as a Nutritional supplement will help to maintain the normal balance of beneficial bacteria in the intestine. Yet despite scientific evidence of the benefits of Probiotics and their successful medicinal use elsewhere in the world, acceptance among conventional North American physicians has come slowly. A 2002 article in the journal Microbes and Infection, for instance, notes that our concern for "clean" has not only spawned multiple brands of antibacterial soaps and detergents, but may also explain a lack of widespread appreciation that bacteria can be good for health.

An excellent food source of Bifidus is yogurt, long valued for its therapeutic and nutritional benefits. However, there are wide variations in the quantities of Bifidus found in yogurt, and some brands contain none at all, making it difficult to get reliable amounts. To ensure quality and consistency, some commercial manufacturers add the active cultures after pasteurization, a heating process that destroys both unwanted and beneficial organisms. Many brands will specify that their products contain "live" or "active" cultures and list the specific names of the healthy bacteria found in the yogurt.

Bifidobacteria supplements are an effective alternative. These are sold in health-food stores, often in combination with Lactobacillus acidophilus, another group of organisms that function as probiotics. Many probiotic supplements are also combined with fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), simple carbohydrates that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria as they make their way through the digestive tract. FOS are actually a type of "prebiotic", undigestible food ingredients that stimulate the growth of probiotic bacteria that are already in the colon. Both probiotics and prebiotics can change the composition of intestinal bacteria in beneficial ways.

Health Benefits

Many people take Bifidus to treat and prevent digestive disorders, vaginal infections and other illnesses. As it boosts benign and suppresses destructive bacteria, Bifidus helps the body to maintain a healthy bacterial balance. Bifidus is often recommended as a safeguard during antibiotic therapy, which, while treating an illness, can also suppress beneficial bacteria and trigger the growth of yeast infections.

Bifidus may offer general health protection, as well. Some studies suggest that probiotics improve overall health by strengthening immunity that often declines with age, and by suppressing the toxic effects of carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).

Specifically, Bifidus is most commonly used to:

Ease Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Since the 1950s, probiotics have undergone rigorous testing for their beneficial effects on symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a constellation of gastrointestinal symptoms that includes abdominal bloating, cramping and constipation or diarrhea. A 1998 study in 42 patients with IBS found that taking 3 grams of a freeze-dried probiotic preparation called VSL#3 (which contained three strains of bifidobacteria, four strains of lactobacilli and one strain of Streptococcus salivarius) daily for one month led to a significant improvement in IBS symptoms. (1) A 2003 study of 25 patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS found that the same product, VSL#3 significantly improved abdominal bloating in these patients. (2)

Bifidus has also been shown to improve IBS symptoms when taken alone. In a 2005 study of 77 patients with IBS, taking one billion cells daily of a specific bifidobacteria strain called Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 (Align with Bifantis, Procter & Gamble) in a malted milk drink for eight weeks significantly improved abdominal pain and bloating  compared to Lactobacillus salivarius (L. salivarius) or Placebo drink. Improvement occurred within one week of treatment. However, this product did not seem to reduce bowel movement frequency or alter the quality of stool. (3) A 2006 review of studies by researchers at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine found that Bifidus is beneficial in relieving symptoms of IBS when used either alone or in the VSL#3 probiotic combination product. (4) And in a 2011 study with 122 patients with IBS, compared to placebo, taking Bifidobacterium bifidum MiMBb75 once daily for four weeks significantly improved IBS symptoms such as pain, abdominal distension, bloating, urgency, and digestive disorders, as well as overall quality of life. (5)

However, a 2009 review of studies cautioned that the exact effects of probiotics remain unclear because the results of studies have been mixed. Also, there appear to be large differences in effects depending on the species and strains of bacteria used, as well as differences in trial parameters, such as doses, duration of supplementation, and technical differences in how the measurements were made. (6)

Treat ulcerative colitis and prevent relapse. Some evidence indicates that taking the combination probiotic VSL#3 may help to increase immune function and prevent relapse in patients with ulcerative colitis, a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) characterized by chronic inflammation and ulceration in the lining of the colon and rectum. (7-8) Several studies have shown that taking this combination probiotic is more effective in inducing remission and reducing relapse rates than the conventional medications balsalazide, 5-ASA, and mesalazine. (9-11) Severe ulcerative colitis is sometimes treated surgically—removing the affected large intestine and creating an internal pouch using the small intestine which is then connected to the anus to hold waste until it is eliminated. This pouch frequently becomes inflamed (pouchitis). Additional research indicates that the combination probiotic may be useful in treating chronic pouchitis. Treatment for one year with VSL#3 helped to maintain remission in 85% of these patients. (12-13)

Prevent respiratory tract infections. Some preliminary evidence shows that children ages three to five years who attend daycare centers have significantly fewer flu-like respiratory symptoms when given milk containing a specific combination of L. acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis (HOWARU Protect, Danisco). In a 2009 double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 326 children, those taking the combination probiotic twice daily for six months had a 45% lower risk of  fever, cough and runny nose compared to those taking placebo or L. acidophilus alone. The duration of symptoms, when they did occur, was also two days shorter in patients taking this combination, and these patients were significantly less likely to use an antibiotic for their symptoms. (14) More research is needed.

Strengthen immunity. Some studies suggest that probiotics improve overall health by strengthening immunity, which tends to decline with age. A 2001 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that volunteers given milk that contained Bifidus had an increase in white blood cells, which are the first line of defense in infection. (15)

Alleviate symptoms of lactose intolerance. Bifidus is in the "lactic acid” group of bacteria (LAB) characterized by their metabolic and physiologic properties. For people who are lactose-intolerant or cannot digest the natural sugars in milk, Bifidus and other probiotics, such as acidophilus, can help. Preliminary studies show that foods containing Bifidus, such as yogurt, boost the body's ability to digest milk sugars, thereby helping to reduce bloating and gassiness. They combat bad breath, too. (16) These foods usually don't contain high levels of "live" probiotic organisms; so supplements may be a better choice. A 2005 review of studies found that general probiotic supplementation did not relieve symptoms; however, some species and concentrations seem to be beneficial. (17) More research is needed.

Protect against colon cancer. Probiotics create an acidic environment in the intestine and neutralize the enzymes that convert pre-carcinogens into carcinogens. Studies are promising concerning their protective effect for colon, liver, and bladder cancers. Recent in vitro (laboratory) and in vivo animal studies have shown that some probiotics directly inhibit the formation of tumor cells. However, more studies are needed in humans before probiotics can be recommended for prevention of colon cancer. (18, 19)


Bifidus is available in capsules or powders, often in combination with acidophilus or fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), undigestible dietary fibers that also stimulate the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.

Dosage Information

Special Tips:

  • Look for probiotic supplements in the refrigerator section of a health food store. Read the label to confirm that the product contains "live" or "active" cultures. Both heat and freezing temperatures will kill the Bifidus. Store Bifidus (regardless of its form) in the refrigerator or another dry, cool place. There are a few brands that are packaged to be effective if not refrigerated, but they tend to be more expensive. In general these forms are most convenient for frequent travelers.

  • Check the expiration date. As there are numerous brands of probiotics, with a wide variety of strengths, forms, and concentrations, dosing should be guided by the instructions on the package or the advice of a health-care practitioner.

  • Be aware that the amount of active cultures in Bifidus products can vary widely. Look for those that contain an effective quantity of organisms. In capsule forms, there should be at least one billion organisms per capsule.

  • Bifidus is often sold in preparations that combine Bifidus and another effective probiotic, Lactobacillus acidophilus. Some may also include prebiotics such as FOS.

  • Different strains work better in different parts of the body. Look for a supplement that has a variety of strains. Some manufacturers are even creating specialty blends emphasizing combinations of strains that contribute to intestinal health or urinary tract health.

  • Typically, for an acute situation, probiotics are taken three times a day, whereas for a more chronic problem, or for prevention, reduce the dose to once or twice a day. As a general rule, probiotics are taken with food to reduce the number of organisms destroyed by stomach acid, or before bed so they have longer to sit in the intestine and do their good work.


--Also see the WholeHealthMD articles on probiotics and acidophilus for additional information.


  • For irritable bowel syndrome: 1 billion cells of Bifidobacterium infantis daily in a malted milk drink has been used.
  • For ulcerative colitis: For maintenance therapy, taking 3 grams of VSL#3 twice a day has been used. For patients with active mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis, taking 3 grams of VSL#3 once or twice a day in combination with conventional treatment has been used.
  • For preventing respiratory infections in children attending daycare centers: Drinking a milk product containing 5 billion colony-forming units each of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium (HOWARU Protect, Danisco) in 120 mL of milk twice a day has been used.
  • For lactose intolerance: Eating foods high in "live” cultures may help. No supplemental dosage has been established.
  • For colon cancer: No dosage has been established in humans.

Guidelines for Use

  • If taking Bifidus during antibiotic therapy, take it as many hours between the antibiotics as possible.

  • To make a vaginal douche, add 2 tsp. Bifidus powder to 1 quart warm water. Douche once a day. Do not use a Bifidus douche for more than 5 days, as continuous use can actually cause an irritation of the vaginal walls.

  • When using powder forms, mix about one-half teaspoon with one-half cup of water, or follow package directions.

  • For liquid or suppository forms, follow the product's label directions.


General Interaction

There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with Bifidus.

Possible Side Effects

Although Bifidus can ease flatulence, ironically, it may increase gassiness for a few days. This effect will ease as the body's intestines adjust to the bacterial shift.


The safety of probiotics has not been sufficiently studied, particularly for use by the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems. Anyone considering use of probiotics as a complementary medicine for serious conditions should consult a physician first. Probiotics should not be used in place of conventional medicine.


1. Bazzocchi G, Campieri M, Gionchetti P, et al. Change in colonic function and fecal microbiological and enzymatic activities induced by a new probiotic preparation. Gastroenterol Int. 1998;11(Suppl 1):111.
2. Kim HJ, Camilleri M, McKinzie S, et al. A randomized, controlled trial of probiotic, VSL#3, on gut transit and symptoms in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2003;17:895-904.
3. O'Mahony L, McCarthy J, Kelly P, et al. Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium in irritable bowel syndrome: symptom responses and relationship to cytokine profiles. Gastroenterology. 2005;128:541-51.
4. Camilleri M. Probiotics and irritable bowel syndrome: rationale, putative mechanisms, and evidence of clinical efficacy. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 Mar;40(3):264-9.
5. Guglielmetti S, Mora D, Gschwender M, Popp K. Randomised clinical trial: Bifidobacterium bifidum MiMBb75 significantly alleviates irritable bowel syndrome and improves quality of life – a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Mar 21.
6. Lomax AR, Calder PC. Probiotics, immune function, infection and inflammation: a review of the evidence from studies conducted in humans. Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(13):1428-518.
7. Venturi A, Gionchetti P, Rizzello F, et al. Impact on the composition of the faecal flora by a new probiotic preparation: preliminary data on maintenance treatment of patients with ulcerative colitis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 1999;13:1103-8.
8. Roberfroid MB. Prebiotics and probiotics: are they functional foods? Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71:1682S-7S.
9. Tursi A, Brandimarte G, Giorgetti GM, et al. Low-dose balsalazide plus a high-potency probiotic preparation is more effective than balsalazide alone or mesalazine in the treatment of acute mild-to-moderate ulcerative colitis. Med Sci Monit. 2004;10:PI126-31.
10. Bibiloni R, Fedorak RN, Tannock GW, et al. VSL#3 probiotic-mixture induces remission in patients with active ulcerative colitis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005;100:1539-46.
11. Miele E, Pascarella F, Giannetti E. et al. Effect of a probiotic preparation (VSL#3) on induction and maintenance of remission in children with ulcerative colitis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009;104:437-43.
12. Gionchetti P, Rizzello F, Venturi A, et al. Oral bacteriotherapy as maintenance treatment in patients with chronic pouchitis: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Gastroenterology. 2000;119:305-9.
13. Mimura T, Rizzello F, Helwig U, et al. Once daily high dose probiotic therapy (VSL#3) for maintaining remission in recurrent or refractory pouchitis. Gut. 2004;53:108-14.
14. Leyer GJ, Li S, Mubasher ME, et al. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics. 2009;124:e172-e179.
15. Gill HS, Rutherfurd KJ, Cross ML, Gopal PK. Enhancement of immunity in the elderly by dietary supplementation with the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis HN019. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Dec;74(6):833-9.
16. He T, Priebe MG, Zhong Y, Huang C, Harmsen HJ, Raangs GC, Antoine JM, Welling GW, Vonk RJ. Effects of yogurt and bifidobacteria supplementation on the colonic microbiota in lactose-intolerant subjects. J Appl Microbiol. 2008 Feb;104(2):595-604.
17. Levri KM, Ketvertis K, Deramo M, Merenstein JH, D'Amico F. Do probiotics reduce adult lactose intolerance? A systematic review. J Fam Pract. 2005 Jul;54(7):613-20.
18. Kumar M, Kumar A, Nagpal R, Mohania D, Behare P, Verma V, Kumar P, Poddar D, Aggarwal PK, Henry CJ, Jain S, Yadav H. Cancer-preventing attributes of probiotics: an update. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2010 Feb 26.
19. de Moreno de Leblanc A, Perdigón G. The application of probiotic fermented milks in cancer and intestinal inflammation. Proc Nutr Soc. 2010 Jun 16:1-8. [Epub ahead of print]

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.








Animal studies indicate probiotics may reduce tumor size in colon cancer; human studies are needed. (18, 19)

Preliminary evidence indicates efficacy in reducing symptoms and duration of symptoms. (14)

Preliminary evidence indicates foods containing Bifidus alleviates the bloating and gassiness associated with lactose intolerance. However, a review of studies found that while some species and concentrations may be beneficial, general probiotic supplementation did not relieve symptoms. More studies are needed to confirm. (16, 17)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome  <
Date Published: 04/18/2005
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