Probiotics Prevent Chronic Intestinal Infection
Chronic or recurrent intestinal infection in people who have had their colons surgically removed can be prevented with the use of a probiotic supplement, according to a study published in Gut (2004;53:108–17).
The makeup of microorganisms in the colon has a profound impact on overall health. Inflammation, the presence of nonhealthful or disease-causing microorganisms, or the use of antibiotics can disrupt colonies of healthful bacteria normally in the colon. Probiotics are supplements of beneficial bacteria that have been proven to effectively restore normal bacterial colonies, preventing the growth of harmful bacteria and other microorganisms and increasing immune function. It has been suggested that probiotics might prevent as many as 50% of infections resulting from antibiotic therapy.
Surgical removal of the colon is performed in 10 to 20% of people with a form of inflammatory bowel disease known as ulcerative colitis. After the colon is removed, the end of the small intestine is often surgically connected to the anal opening. This procedure creates a pouch that takes on some of the functions of the colon. About half of the people who undergo this surgery develop pouchitis, an inflammation of the pouch believed to be caused by the presence of abnormal microorganisms. The symptoms of pouchitis include frequent loose bowel movements and abdominal cramping. While pouchitis is often treated effectively with antibiotics, in some people it can recur frequently or become chronic. In one controlled study, the use of a probiotic supplement immediately after surgery was found to prevent the development of pouchitis. In another study, 3 grams of a probiotic supplement taken twice daily, providing a total of 1,800 billion bacteria per day, prevented pouchitis for nine months in a group of people who had experienced chronic or recurrent cases.
The 36 people who took part in the current study had recurrent or chronic pouchitis that had been successfully treated with a four-week course of intensive antibiotic therapy before the trial. They were randomly assigned to receive either 6 grams of a probiotic supplement, providing 1,800 billion beneficial bacteria once per day, or a placebo for 12 months. The bacteria in the supplement included several species of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, as well as one species of streptococcus. Symptom evaluation and a physical exam were performed at the beginning of the study and every two months thereafter. At the end of the study, 17 of 20 people who had received probiotics (85%), but only 1 of 16 people who had received the placebo (6%), had remained free of pouchitis. Furthermore, people in the probiotics group rated their quality of life as significantly better at the end of the study than those in the placebo group.
The results of this study confirm a previous study’s findings and show that daily supplementation with probiotics can effectively prevent pouchitis in people with recurrent or chronic pouchitis. If probiotics are incorporated as a prevention strategy in people who are susceptible to pouchitis, it will likely reduce the need for multiple courses or ongoing antibiotic use, which can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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