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Feeding the Gut: The Relationship Between 2’-FL and Bifidobacteria

Nov 30, 2022 07:35AM ● By Keri Barron
A family posing outside on a sunny day.

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2’-FL and Bifidobacteria
2’-fucosyllactose (2’-FL) is a human milk oligosaccharide present in breast milk. It is able to evade digestive enzymes until it reaches the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract where it acts as a prebiotic, feeding bacteria in the gut. 2’-FL is uniquely available to Bifidobacteria, a group of good bacteria in the gut, which helps their population flourish and benefits both gut and immune health. Bifidobacteria are health-promoting bacteria, and maintaining adequate levels is important because decreased levels of Bifidobacteria are commonly seen in GI conditions as well as metabolic diseases. Supporting growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria can also help decrease the levels of pathogenic bacteria, including Clostridioides difficile, which can lead to severe infection. Bifidobacteria strains have the ability to utilize 2’-FL by either direct uptake or by breaking 2’-FL apart outside the cell, liberating its constituents for easy microbial feeding. Bifidobacteria colonization in the gut is aided by the presence of 2’-FL.
Health Benefits Through the Life Cycle
Babies are born with a very underdeveloped gut microbiome, but the human milk oligosaccharides in breast milk, including 2’-FL, help promote the development of a rich gut microbiome. Breastfeeding in infants has been strongly associated with an increase in many Bifidobacteria species, due in large part to the high content of 2’-FL. It also is associated with reduced risk of developing lower respiratory tract infections later, as well as other benefits, including healthy brain development and cognition. For infants that are not breastfed, formula enriched with 2’-FL and other human milk oligosaccharides supports the development of the intestinal immune system and gut barrier function.
The benefits of 2’-FL extend beyond infancy, promoting the growth of beneficial microbes throughout adulthood and in individuals with GI conditions. In healthy adults, supplementation with 2’-FL was able to positively change the composition of the gut microbiome, increasing the levels of Bifidobacteria. In adults with chronic GI conditions, consumption of 2’-FL resulted in improvements in symptoms specific to the intestines as well as more broad symptoms, including quality of life.
2’-FL is a naturally occurring compound in breast milk that jump-starts a baby’s gut microbiome and can help support the gut and resolve gut-related issues throughout life. Supplementation with 2’-FL can help balance the gut microbiome by increasing Bifidobacteria populations, as well as feed beneficial Bifidobacteria during times of acute GI stress.


Keri Barron, Ph.D., is the scientific writer for Standard Process. For more information, visit