Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Ulcerative Colitis Health Center

Font Size

Ulcerative Colitis and Probiotics

Many people are trying probiotics to ease the discomfort of ulcerative colitis.
WebMD Feature

A growing number of people with ulcerative colitis are reaching for probiotics -- products containing so-called "friendly" bacteria that populate the intestines.

Why? Researchers don't yet know what causes ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). So finding effective treatments has been a challenge. Several kinds of medications can help reduce inflammation, improve symptoms, and achieve remission. But many people with IBD also want to use more natural methods to ease their discomfort.

Two out of five patients with inflammatory bowel disease use probiotics regularly, recent surveys suggest. Children with IBD are also frequently given probiotics by their parents.

But do they really work?

"I'm a great believer in probiotics," says Walter J. Coyle, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Program at Scripps Clinic Medical Center in La Jolla, Calif. "I definitely recommend them for irritable bowel syndrome, regulation, and bloating. But frankly, when it comes to inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis, we have almost no scientific evidence that they are beneficial."

Probiotics and Ulcerative Colitis: A Mixed Bag of Findings

In theory, at least, the approach makes sense. Ulcerative colitis and other IBDs may occur when bad bacteria outnumber the beneficial bacteria that normally reside in the gut. Recent research suggests that a lack of certain beneficial bacteria may also be a cause of the diseases. If that's true, introducing more friendly bugs would certainly seem to help.

Evidence Supporting Probiotics for Ulcerative Colitis

Researchers have discovered probiotic bacteria can influence the activity of immune cells and the cells that line the intestines. Specifically, these friendly bacteria appear to block disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the lining of the intestines. There's also evidence that the good bugs block chemical factors involved in inflammation.

"It's clear that the effects of probiotic organisms could be helpful in treating the pathogenic mechanisms of inflammatory bowel disease," notes University of Alberta gastroenterologist Richard Neil Fedorak, MD, who recently published a review of current research findings on probiotics.

Murky Results in Some Clinical Trials of Probiotics

Still, researchers acknowledge that they're only just beginning to explore the complex populations of bacteria -- friendly and unfriendly -- that reside in the gut. So far, clinical studies designed to test whether probiotics help either to maintain remissions or to resolve flare-ups have produced mixed results.

Today on WebMD

basket of vegetables
IBD Overview Slideshow
Ulcerative Colitis Managing Flares
what is ibs

Supplements UC
Ulcerative Colitis Health Check
Ulcerative Colitis Diet
Ulcerative Colitis Diet Yogurt

Ulcerative Colitis Surgery
Ulcerative Colitis Medications
Exercising When You Have A GI Disorder
Picture Of The Intestines
Image Collection