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Inflammatory Bowel Disease Health Center

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Probiotics May Help Treat IBD Symptoms

Study Shows 'Good' Bacteria May Fight Inflammatory Bowel Disease
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 29, 2009 -- A natural probiotic therapy may offer a new treatment option to ease symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and promote the body's own healing process.

Up to 1 million people in the U.S. have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); the main types are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. With inflammatory bowel disease the inner lining of the intestines become inflamed and damaged. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea (which may be bloody), weight loss, and rectal bleeding.

A new study shows treatment with the probiotic Bacillus polyfermenticus reduced rectal bleeding, lessened tissue inflammation, and promoted weight gain in mice with colitis. The mice also had increased blood vessel growth in their intestinal lining, which is important for healing damaged tissue. The probiotic also encouraged the growth process of new blood vessels in laboratory tests with human intestinal cells.

Probiotics are non-harmful living microorganisms, in this case a type of bacterium, that benefit the host when provided in adequate amounts. Researchers say probiotics are becoming increasingly popular for the prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders.

Bacillus polyfermenticus is available in Japan and South Korea and is used in the treatment of intestinal disorders such as diarrhea and constipation.

The study, published in the American Journal of Physiology -- Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, was conducted in two phases.

First, researchers treated mice with colitis with the probiotic during the noninflammatory period of the disease. The results showed the probiotic treatment not only improved the symptoms of colitis, but the colon tissue of the treated mice had greater angiogenesis, a process of new blood vessel development important for healing wounds.

The second phase of the study looked at what happened when human intestinal cells were treated with the probiotic in a test tube. Researchers found the probiotic treatment promoted the angiogenesis process.

Previous studies have shown that angiogenesis plays a role in causing flare-ups of inflammatory bowel diseases like colitis. But researcher Eunok Im, PhD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California at Los Angeles, and colleagues say these results suggest that once the flare-up subsides, angiogenesis is also necessary for proper healing to occur.

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