Researchers Examine the Link Between Probiotics and IBD

Ongoing clinical trial evaluates the potential of a new probiotic formula for treating the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Researchers have made many attempts to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) through the use of probiotics, defined simply as living microorganisms that confer a benefit on their host. Given the evidence indicating that the intestinal microbiota is a factor contributing to IBD, it makes sense that we could treat IBD by modifying the bacteria in the gut.

Already, results from studies on probiotics have provided evidence that probiotic supplements can be use to treat or prevent conditions ranging from cancer to infections and even allergies. Several of the claimed benefits of probiotics, such as immunomodulation and protection against colon cancer, are relevant and important benefits for patients with IBD.

Gut Microbiota and IBD

Although the relationship between intestinal bacteria and the development of IBD is complex, researchers have found evidence indicating that chronic intestinal inflammation depends somehow on the flora of the intestinal tract. Because of the close relationship between inflammatory bowel diseases and the gastrointestinal tract—home to trillions of bacteria—probiotics seem to be a promising, relatively natural treatment for IBD.

The thousands of bacteria strains present in the intestines serve a myriad of purposes, helping the body to metabolize nutrients and providing an important barrier against pathogens. For example, bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates and proteins produces short-chain fatty acids, which are essential to a variety of physiological functions. Likewise, intestinal bacteria produces important immunostimulants (such as peptidoglycan and lipopolysaccharides) that contribute to healthy immune function.

Probiotic Supplements and IBD

Although determining the exact effects of probiotic supplements in IBD has proven difficult for a number of reasons, various trials have examined the use of probiotics as an IBD treatment option. When using probiotics to treat IBD, the mechanism at work is the alteration of microflora of the intestines, creating a more favorable composition of organisms with anti-inflammatory and gut healing properties.

Results from human studies on probiotics for IBD have been inconsistent, but there’s evidence indicating that probiotics may decrease intestinal permeability, regulate proinflammatory mechanisms, and dampen autoimmune responses—all desirable outcomes in the treatment of IBD.

Ongoing Research in Probiotics and IBD

Research on probiotics and IBD is a complex undertaking, as the sheer number of bacteria strains (and combinations thereof) make it difficult to generalize about the benefits of probiotics for treating IBD. However, this hasn’t stopped patients, physicians, researchers, and biotech companies from searching for the optimal probiotic formula for treating Crohn’s and colitis.

For instance, Winclove Bio Industries BV is currently examining the effects of one of their probiotic mixtures, studying how it affects the gut microbiome and fatigue in patients with IBD. The probiotic formula is being studied in patients with both Crohn’s disease and colitis in ongoing clinical trials, and the trial is currently recruiting participants. Click here to see if you're eligible for an alternative medication.

Jonkers, D., & Stockbrügger, R. (2003). Probiotics and inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 96(4), 167–171.

Get the latest updates from Discover Therapies about your condition.