You’re probably aware that probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus can have beneficial effects on stomach problems such as bloating, but researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in the US, have now managed to improve the probiotic, turning it into an effective anti-inflammatory medication.
This could be fantastic news for sufferers of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. In the case of Crohn’s the intestine doesn’t function correctly, causing diarrhoea, pain and gastrointestinal bleeding. Reducing inflammation is also beneficial for ulcerative colitis, a condition characterised by ulcers in the large intestine. The researchers speculate that the probiotic might even help control or prevent colon cancer, which is also believed to be a disease that is triggered by inflammation.
The ‘adjustment’ that the researchers made on the probiotic was to remove a gene. They fed the new version to mice that had two different types of colitis. After just two weeks of a diet containing the genetically altered probiotic the inflammation was nearly completely gone. Disease progression was stopped by 95%.
In people with Crohn’s immune cells become overactive, with the effect that they then damage the intestine itself. The way the new probiotic works, say the researchers, is by calming everything down. The probiotic appears to keep immune cells and regulatory T-cells working as they should do, which helps keep inflammation at bay and prevents the immune cells from causing damage to the intestine.