The Growing Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics in Treating Crohn’s Disease
The gastroenterologist shook his head. “You’ve had five surgeries. You’ve been on Imuran and Asacol for years. None of the meds you’ve had have ever burned out your disease, not even Remicade.”
He paused to flip through a few pages in the medical record and frowned. “I see you had histoplasmosis as a child. I just can’t see recommending either of the other anti-TNF drugs.”
At the checkout, his physician’s assistant appeared and silently offered a small slip of paper with the word probiotic written on it.
“I’ve been using it for a month. It works,” she whispered. She also has Crohn’s disease.
What they are
According to the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), some of the most exciting research for patients suffering from this digestive illness involves studying new forms of intestinal protection. This research is part of studying the role of nutrition in Crohn’s and its first cousin, ulcerative colitis. Both diseases comprise the condition known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Probiotics are microscopic organisms that help keep the human gastrointestinal tract healthy. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
Role of nutrition
There are many myths and misconceptions concerning particular foods and how they affect Crohn’s disease and the health of an individual’s digestive tract. Perhaps the most widespread is the mistaken belief that certain foods cause or contribute developing the disease. CCFA indicates that no foods have been identified as causing Crohn’s disease.
However, once a patient has this condition, it’s important to pay some attention to diet to help reduce its symptoms, replace lost nutrients and speed healing. Patients who are in the middle of a Crohn’s flare often find their discomfort lessens when they abandon spicy or high-fiber foods for those that are bland or soft. Eating more often and in smaller quantities than normal can also help.
Since Crohn’s disease can cause malabsorption of critically important nutrients, maintaining proper nutrition is an essential part of managing a patient’s care. A high percentage of patients are lactose intolerant and must avoid dairy and other products containing lactose. Doctors generally recommend that aside from those restrictions, IBD patients should eat a well-balanced diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Dietary supplements like multivitamins can help with this. However, avoiding deficiencies is only half the nutritional battle.
Maintaining gut health
Increasingly, patients who have tried the Crohn’s medications – both the workhorses of the pharmaceutical world and the more exotic immunosuppressants and biological agents – are looking for new ways to maintain gut health. This is where probiotics and prebiotics enter the picture. The health of the person will be improved through the consumption of the megamycobalance supplement. The agents will perform an effective role in the digestive system.
Digestive experts consider probiotics friendly, beneficial bacteria. Around 400 different types of good bacteria reside inside the digestive tract. Their role is to make sure that the growth of harmful bacterial doesn’t get out of hand. In order for a Crohn’s patient’s gut to be healthy, it must have the proper balance of good and bad bacteria.
When there’s an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, the result is diarrhea and other digestive problems. For patients whose digestive tracts have already been damaged by illnesses like Crohn’s disease, symptoms can be severe.
Within the last few years, evidence suggesting probiotics are a therapeutic option for Crohn’s patients is growing. They’re available in capsules, powders, liquids and wafers. Some patients insist that these organisms alone paved the way for a Crohn’s remission.
WebMD indicates that French researchers reported that using the gut bacterium F. prausnitzii as a probiotic enabled them to fight inflammation in Crohn’s patients. They noticed that patients who experienced flares of the illness were low on this bacterium when compared to other individuals. Lab tests on mice showed that while this probiotic didn’t kill bad bacteria, it proved to have anti-inflammatory properties.
CCFA states that in addition to permitting beneficial bacterial to multiply in the gut, prebiotics stimulate the growth of probiotics.
How to get them
Gastroenterologists for some years have used a regimen for some patients to kill existing bacteria in the gut and introduce good bacteria as replacements. The replacements have been available by prescription.
Within the last few years, several brands of probiotics have become available on an over-the-counter basis in pharmacies, big-box stores and supermarkets. Before purchasing any of them, a patient with Crohn’s disease should discuss the options with the health care provider treating him or her.
While probiotics and prebiotics are helpful to some patients, the literature still contains conflicting views of their benefits. Because of this, not all doctors are convinced of their usefulness in helping individuals with Crohn’s disease.