Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment and Probiotics

Probiotics are beginning to make an appearance in inflammatory bowel disease treatment with some success.

Our intestinal tract is home to a huge number and variety of bacteria - some are potentially harmful and some are beneficial to us.

People with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a different "mix" of bacteria in their intestinal tract than do people who do not have IBD. The numbers of Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium bacteria are extremely reduced. As well, this population of bacteria interact with their "host" (that's you) differently by displaying an overly aggressive immune response producing the familiar symptoms of IBD.

Until recently antibiotics have been the main treatment for IBD but as they attack all bacteria - whether friend or foe - antibiotic treatment has not been overly successful.

Some probiotic strains have been very successful in trials although current inflammatory bowel disease research indicates that they are more effective in maintaining remission than in treating active disease.1

Not all probiotics are suitable and it is important to choose strains that have been studied for IBD treatment.


Probiotics and IBD

After conventional treatment for ulcerative colitis, sooner or later, 50% of people will develop pouchitis. The benefit of the probiotic VSL3 was far greater than most of the other probiotics tested.

That said, other probiotics such as LGG have also successfully helped some people with pouchitis.


Ulcerative colitis

Active ulcerative colitis is yet another problem that VSL3 has helped. At the end of one of the trials the variety of bacteria present in the intestine was extremely diverse which seemed to indicate that the VSL3 was normalizing the intestinal flora.


Crohn's Disease

Unfortunately, probiotics have not proved so effective either in treatment or maintaining remission in Crohn's Disease. Trials using Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Lactobacillus salivarius UCC118 both showed some improvement but the because of the intermittent nature of the the disease it wasn't possible to prove whether they had actually helped or not.



1. Böhm S, Kruis W. Probiotics in chronic inflammatory bowel disease.(translated from German) MMW Fortschr Med. 2006 Aug 31;148(35-36):30-4.