Good bacteria helps ease symptoms of ulcerative colitis

New research suggests that consuming a mixture of eight good or "probiotic" bacteria reduces symptoms in patients with ulcerative colitis which doesn't respond to conventional medications.

A severe inflammatory disease of the colon, ulcerative colitis often produces bloody diarrhea and is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer.

To eliminate the cancer risk, and reduce the symptoms, complete removal of the colon is frequently performed.

The probiotic mixture, known as VSL#3, contains four strains of Lactobacillus, three strains of Bifidobacterium and one strain of Streptococcus salivarius, all well-known species of good bacteria.

Co-investigator Dr. Richard N. Fedorak, from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and colleagues, says that although VSL#3 has been shown to maintain remission of ulcerative colitis, to date there have been no studies on the mixture's use in the active, symptom-producing phase of the disease.

In their research they enrolled 34 patients with active ulcerative colitis who were treated with VSL#3 twice daily for 6 weeks.

Previously a range of standard treatments had been tried on the patients all to no avail.

The researchers found that remission occurred in 53 percent of the patients and an additional 24 percent experienced some degree of improvement in symptoms.

A few patients experienced no improvement or worsening of their symptoms.

Apparently the only side effect of VSL#3 was increased bloating, which was reported by 10 patients.

Fedorak and his team found that testing of sampled tissue provided direct evidence that the probiotic bacteria had, in fact, reached the diseased sites of the colon.

The research is published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, July 2005.

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