Not all bacteria are harmful, disease-causing vermin your body fights to keep out. Certain critters -- classified as probiotics and commonly known as friendly bacteria -- aid in digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function and prevention of bad bacteria overgrowth, according to Harvard Medical School. Like many probiotics, Bifidobacterium longum is a strain that may offer health benefits. In your diet, many fermented dairy products contain natural or added probiotics, and you can get probiotics as a dietary supplement.
May Fight High Cholesterol
Evidence suggests B. longum may help battle the effects of a high-cholesterol diet, according to an animal study published in the November 2012 issue of the journal "Food Chemistry." After groups of rats ate a high-cholesterol diet, the group fed yogurt containing B. longum had significantly lower cholesterol. In a small human study, fermented milk containing B. longum and another probiotic strain significantly decreased cholesterol in women who began the study with elevated cholesterol. The results were published in the November 2009 issue of the "Journal of Dairy Research."
Possible Role in Fighting Colon Cancer
Probiotics, including B. longum, appear to play a potential role in protecting against colon cancer, according to a study published in the November 2012 issue of the journal "BMC Surgery." Animal evidence shows B. longum strongly binds to cancer-causing substances in the colon, rendering them inactive, according to the study. B. longum may boost the immune system as well, increasing the body's ability to fight tumor cells, according to the report.
May Ease Irritable Bowel Symptoms
There is evidence that probiotics -- including B. longum -- reduce some symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, according to an analysis of previous studies that was published in the January 2013 issue of the journal "Revisits in Digestive Diseases." Researchers found that B. longum significantly reduces irritable bowel syndrome pain and symptoms such as flatulence. The study concluded probiotics may be an effective therapeutic option for people with this condition.
Dietary Sources and Supplements
Foods and supplements containing probiotics are commonly marketed for general bowel health. Some dietary sources include fermented milk, yogurt and cheese. Science has yet to prove definitively whether eating foods rich in probiotics or taking supplements is beneficial, but they may have potential benefits. Talk to your physician before taking supplements of any kind. Probiotics may cause mild side effects such as gas, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.