Lactobacillus bulgaricus: From Yogurt Bacteria to Probiotic?

Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) was originally discovered in 1905 as a crucial element of Bulgarian yogurt by Dr. Stamen Grigorov. He attributed some general health benefits to it. Since then, numerous studies have shown that it is not only one of the two bacteria required for yogurt, but it has numerous beneficial probiotic properties in the human body.

It is one of the two active bacteria (the other one being Streptococcus thermophilus) that are required by the FDA in the US in order for a dairy product to be labeled as "yogurt".

L. bulgaricus is one of those probiotic bacteria that is called one name but is really technically another. In this case, the scientific name is Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus. You won’t see that long name on food and supplement products, however, so the common name is used on this website.

Like most probiotics, the characteristics of L. bulgaricus strains are strain-specific. Most of them have adapted to the types of milk used, be that sheep, goat, yak, cow, etc. and they are highly suited to survive in milk because they prefer to use lactose as food.

Is L. bulgaricus Safe?

Since this species of bacteria is used as one of the essential microbes in yogurt, you can guess that it is generally considered to be safe. It is on the European QPS (Qualified Presumption of Safety) list.

What Are The Benefits Of Lactobacillus bulgaricus?

Since they use lactose as food, one of the biggest benefits of L. bulgaricus is improved lactose digestion and reduction or elimination of symptoms of lactose intolerance in individuals.

In general, L. bulgaricus bacteria:

  1. Are able to survive stomach acid, bile salts and pancreatic enzymes by adapting their existence until better conditions arrive (but it does not form an endospore like Bacillus species do)
  2. Are transient species (do not colonize permanently)
  3. Are able to use simple sugars from the diet and produce exopolysaccharides (EPS), complex branched carbohydrate-like molecules that help increase the thickness of yogurt and slow down the absorption of simple sugars into the bloodstream. This can be helpful in normalizing blood sugar levels.
  4. Have a symbiotic (mutually rewarding) relationship with S. thermophilus
  5. Are facultative anaerobes, meaning they live best with little to no oxygen
  6. Reproduce rapidly in mid-range temperatures
  7. Produce products which enhance the aroma and flavor of yogurt

Where Can You Find Lactobacillus bulgaricus?

L. bulgaricus (live) is found in unheated cultured dairy products such as yogurt (but not yogurt-covered pretzels or nuts). The strain used in the yogurt will determine if the yogurt is aromatic and tart or more tart and flat. It may also be found in other cultured or fermented products. Read labels.

As a yogurt starter, you can find it in:

As a probiotic supplement, it is found in multi-species products such as:

One of the strains with research supporting its use is Lactobacillus bulgaricus LB-51. Read my review of Natren's Healthy Trinity here.

Natren Healthy Trinity

See my review of iFlora here.

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