Balancing Gut Bacteria Shows Promise for IBD Treatment

  • In the past, I have often talked about how the body’s good gut bacteria, or microbiome, can play a role in treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).  Now, new research provides more evidence regarding the benefits of healthy gut bacteria and balancing the microbiome.

    Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, in conjunction with the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, found differences in the normal gut microbes of Crohn's patients and people who did not have IBD. In the study of more than 1,500 people, the scientists determined that the Crohn's patients had less microbial diversity in their intestinal tissues. Crohn's patients also had abnormally high levels of inflammatory microbes and smaller levels of non-inflammatory and beneficial microbes.

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    These new results will likely lead to further studies to isolate specific strains of probiotics that can help rebalance the body's microbiome.  With luck, we will soon know if probiotics can treat or help prevent IBD, and which strains offer the most promise.

    In the meantime, there are three things you can do help develop a healthy microbiome:

    1.  Eat probiotic-rich foods, such as kefir or yogurt, every day. 

    2.  Add prebiotic-rich foods to your diet to get the best results from the probiotics you consume.  Some good sources of prebiotics include beans, artichoke, jicama, chickory root, raw oats, unrefined wheat or barley and yacon.

    3.  Try to avoid using antibiotics unless necessary, and make sure you finish the course of treatment as directed by your physician.  Ask your doctor about probiotics that can help replenish the good bacteria that may have been destroyed by the antibiotics.

    For more information on this subject, here are several blogposts I’ve written previously: Antibiotic Overuse and Crohn's Disease Risk and Early Antibiotic Use Linked to IBD, both of which address the use of antibiotics.  Probiotics for the Treatment of IBD covers research into a specific probiotic that could help decrease colitis and inflammation for IBD patients.

Published On: March 20, 2014