Can Probiotics Help Ulcerative Colitis and Improve Digestive Health?
7 minute read
Probiotics are commonly taken to help with many digestive issues and disorders. A recent meta-analysis looked at the conclusions of all previous studies to find whether or not probiotics can help stop a recurrence of ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation in the digestive tract and can also cause sores or ulcers. It affects the inner lining of your colon and your rectum.
Fortunately, the news about probiotics for ulcerative colitis is good.
Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis can sneak up on you as the symptoms typically start slowly and can be brushed aside as “something you ate” or another stomach upset. But, if left to progress, ulcerative colitis can be a very debilitating disease with life-threatening complications.
If you are having any of the following symptoms, it’s important that you connect with your healthcare provider to determine what the cause is.
♦ Frequent diarrhea often accompanied by blood
♦ Abdominal pain and cramping
♦ Rectal pain
♦ An urgency to defecate but an inability to do so “completely”
♦ Unexplained weight loss
♦ Regular fatigue
The cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. It’s been tied to diet and stress in the past, but it’s really not known if these are causes or if they’re aggravating factors.
What You Can Do About Ulcerative Colitis
Treatment can help with the symptoms and can even prompt remission, but there is no cure for this disease. Once you receive a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis, the following treatment options may be explored.
While it has not been proven that what you eat causes inflammatory bowel disease of any kind, it does seem that what you eat can aggravate symptoms, especially during a flare-up.
Each person is different so what affects you might not have the same effects on another person with IBD or ulcerative colitis. It’s recommended that you keep a food log to track what foods seem to give you the most trouble.
Some foods and beverages that can cause problems include dairy, high fiber foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, nuts, seeds, corn, popcorn, spicy foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
Surgery to remove the affected regions of the bowel can totally eliminate your ulcerative colitis, but it will mean the removal of your entire colon and rectum.
This is typically the first step in treatment and can include 5-aminosalicylates and corticosteroids.
Immune System Suppressors
These drugs not only reduce inflammation, but they also suppress the immune system. These include azathioprine and mercaptopurine, cyclosporine, TNF inhibitors or biologics, and Vedolizumab.
In addition, or in combination with the above medications, you may be prescribed other prescriptions or over-the-counter medications to help control specific symptoms and/or pain. Popular additional medications include antibiotics, anti-diarrheal medications, pain relievers, iron supplements, and probiotics.
What are probiotics?
For a long time probiotics were considered a second-line option for ulcerative colitis treatment, but they’re gaining not only in popularity but in proven efficacy.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that live in your digestive system. Your body is full of good and bad bacteria, probiotics are the good ones. Probiotics occur naturally in your body, in some foods (like yogurt) and can be added with supplements, though you should be sure
There are two major groups of probiotics. Lactobacillus is the common one you find in yogurt and fermented foods and helps with diarrhea. The second type is Bifidobacterium, which can be found in some dairy products and is known to help ease ulcerative colitis.
How Probiotics Help Ulcerative Colitis
If you’re looking to add probiotics to your treatment to help ulcerative colitis, to remedy your symptoms, or to stave off the disease, then you’re keenly interested in how probiotics help ulcerative colitis specifically.
A recent meta-analysis, a study that attempts to draw conclusions based on the results of all previous studies on a topic, has found that probiotics are indeed effective in preventing a relapse of UC.
There are a couple of different ways that probiotics help, using different mechanisms. One way they help is by acting as a barrier in the intestinal tract to prevent other bacteria from causing an immune system response.
Another means by which probiotics help is in the way they enhance mucus production to create a thicker layer that protects against invasive bacteria.
Similarly, the effect on the internal mucosal immune system in the intestines is to prompt the secretion of protective immunoglobulins which have a whole host of protective qualities in the body.
Finally, the function of the mucosal immune system is altered and with a probiotic supplement, it becomes more anti-inflammatory. This is where people with ulcerative colitis appear to have the most benefit.
Probiotics make luminal bacteria less effective in causing an intestinal inflammatory response. This means less damage, less pain, less urgency with bowel movements and more.
The Bottom Line
Ulcerative colitis is a serious inflammatory bowel disease that can greatly reduce the quality of life of sufferers. One way you can treat or help to manage your ulcerative colitis is to add a wide-spectrum probiotic like BiomeMD™ to your treatment regimen.
There is scientific evidence that probiotics can be a big benefit to those who have ulcerative colitis and anecdotal evidence that probiotics can help people with other forms of inflammatory bowel disease.
As always, contact your healthcare provider to discuss any changes to your ulcerative colitis treatment plan to make sure there are no reasons why you should avoid probiotics. Once you have the go-ahead, it’s a good idea to track your usage and your success.