Inflammatory bowel disease, also called IBD, is a disease that affects almost one in five thousand people. It leads to uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating abdominal pain, cramping, and diarrhea. The two main types are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – which differ in the areas of the bowel they affect. What these two types of inflammatory bowel disease have in common is how difficult they can be to treat. Sadly, most sufferers have to settle for symptomatic treatment rather than a cure.
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Inflammatory disease of the bowel is associated with a hyped up immune response that’s directed at the intestines and bowel. It’s not clear exactly what triggers this disease, but some researchers believe that an imbalance in the types of bacteria found in the intestines plays a role. They also believe that altering intestinal bacteria through the use of probiotics could provide relief for some people stricken with this disease.
How is inflammatory disease of the bowel treated? Various types of drugs that reduce inflammation and medications that alter the immune response are used – along with steroids. While these medications may calm the overactive immune system and reduce some of the inflammation, it comes at the price of side effects that can be serious in some cases.
Professor Filip Van Immerseel, a Belgian microbiologist, believes that probiotics may be a safe and natural treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. Probiotics are “good bacteria” that can alter the immune response in the intestines in a positive way without harmful side effects. He notes that lactic acid bacteria seem to be particularly beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel disease.
It seems that lactic acid bacteria produce a natural anti-inflammatory chemical known as butyric acid. Some studies have shown that there are lower levels of butyric acid producing bacteria in people with inflammatory disease of the bowel. They’re quick to point out that they haven’t determined which butyric acid producing bacteria are best for IBD sufferers and more research is needed to address this issue. The good news is several other small studies from the best doctors also show that probiotics hold promise as treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.
It may be too soon to recommend probiotics as a way to treat inflammatory bowel disease, but there is a safe and natural way to get some of the benefits. If you’re not lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor about adding yogurt to your diet. One small study showed that yogurt helped some of the inflammation associated with this disease. Eating yogurt with active cultures every day may be helpful for some people who have to deal with this uncomfortable disorder.