The Promise of Probiotic Treatments in IBD
According to the World Health Organization probiotics are defined as "Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host". Due to recent coverage on the health benefits of probiotics many companies have begun to add them to more and more foods but how do you know whether they will help you or not?
During the Children's Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation's (CDHNF) webcast on inflammatory bowel disease I was able to ask the physicians what use they felt, if any, there were for probiotics in the treatments of IBD. At that time they told me that although probiotics have shown to be helpful in some patients they felt that in the future probiotics would be prescribed by using specific strains for specific problems. Right now the two strains that most used are lactic acid bacteria and biffidobacteria. Unfortunately those two strains have had mixed reviews in treating IBD.
Thankfully there is new promising research on strains that produce butyric acid. These strains are currently being studied by Prof. Filip Van Immerseel a medical microbiologist in Belgium. Immerseel believes the anti-inflammatory properties of butyric acid could have promising therapeutic indications in the treatment of IBD. Buteric acid has anti-inflammatory properties as well as the potential to strengthen intestinal wall cells (1).
It has been shown that many people with IBD are lacking in the gut bacteria that produce butyric acid so researches are hopeful that finding the right combination for proper gut colonization will provide relief for patients. Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Butyricicoccus pullicaecorum have been shown in trials to restore normal levels of gut bacteria and reduce symptoms of IBD (1).
More research is needed in this area but the future looks promising. Many IBD treatments can have severe side effects. Finding a treatment that would avoid such side effects could provide countless sufferers with an increased quality of life.