Vinegar may treat ulcerative colitis

Never mind making your fish and chips taste better, vinegar – the centuries-old kitchen ingredient – could help fight an inflammatory bowel disease called ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is a long-term condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed.

According to the Chinese study, vinegar appeared to reduce inflammation by suppressing proteins and the processes that trigger inflammation.

The researchers gave vinegar and its main ingredient – acetic acid – to mice who had symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

The results showed both vinegar and acetic acid significantly reduced the symptoms of ulcerative colitis in the mice.


Interestingly, after looking at the animals’ stools, the team discovered mice treated with vinegar for a month before the colitis was induced by scientists had higher levels of friendly bacteria in their gut, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.

Both of which are thought to be beneficial strains of bacteria for the mice with ulcerative colitis.

The research team also revealed the common kitchen ingredient reduced a type of cell death that is triggered by stress.

The research was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and led by Jilin University in Changchun.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include recurring diarrhoea that main contain mucus, blood or pus, tummy pain and the need to frequently empty your bowels.

It is thought 145,000 people in the UK suffer from the painful condition.

Inflammatory bowel disease – Treatment breakthrough

Irish scientists have made a breakthrough which could lead to new drug treatments for the condition.

IBD refers to the conditions Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. There is no known cause or cure and some 20,000 Irish people, including hundreds of children, are affected.

The conditions have similar symptoms, including abdominal pain, diarrhoea, fever, loss of appetite and weight loss. Left uncontrolled, symptoms may ‘flare up’, causing severe abdominal pain and frequent visits to the bathroom. If parts of the colon become too inflamed, patients may need surgery and a life-long colostomy bag.

However, new research from the National Children’s Research Centre (NCRC), which is based in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, offers hope to those affected.

The researchers found that a protein called IL-36 is found in higher levels at the time of diagnosis in children attending the national paediatric IBD service in Crumlin.

According to lead researcher, Dr Patrick Walsh of Trinity College Dublin, this is ‘good news’ for those affected by IBD ‘as it means it is now possible for someone to develop a drug to treat the condition’.

Inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease

“If such a drug can be found to reduce IBD levels in children, this might turn off the disease or reduce the symptoms,” he explained.

The research was also carried out by consultant paediatric gastroenterologist, Dr Seamus Hussey, and he pointed out that Ireland’s rate of IBD is on the increase, but the reasons for this are unclear.

“In the past decade the number of new cases of IBD in children attending Crumlin has increased by over 90% and numbers continue to rise.

“There are in the region of 20,000 children and adults in Ireland affected by IBD in one form or another. There is no cure for IBD and while we as doctors try to manage the disease over time, many people with it still end up requiring surgery,” he said.

Dr Walsh added that the only way to find out why the numbers are increasing is to continue researching the disease.

“It is only through these investigations that we can hope to find a reason for the increase, and ultimately to find a better way to treat the condition.”

Details of the findings in relation to IL-36 are published in the journal, Muscosal Immunology.