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More Support for Probiotics and Prebiotics in Treating Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

A study published online ahead of the February 2009 print edition of the journal Nutrition found that probiotics and prebiotics may improve the quality of life and bowel function for those suffering from ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

Probiotic supplements contain "friendly" bacteria that are similar to the beneficial microorganisms found in your gut. Maintaining a healthy level of good bacteria plays a crucial role in digestive health and immune system function. Probiotic bacteria also help control the growth of disease causing bad bacteria and may even reduce bad breath.

Prebiotics help your body produce probiotics and serve as food for the friendly bacteria.

For the study, researchers from the Nippon Medical School in Japan recruited 120 volunteers and split them into three groups. The first group received a probiotic supplement (B. Longum) containing two billion bacteria cells, the second received a prebiotic supplement called psyllium (8 grams) and the third received both.

Each participant took their respective supplement(s) daily for four weeks. They also filled out an inflammatory bowel disease questionnaire at the beginning, middle and end of the trial. Blood was taken from a subset of 32 participants to analyze markers for inflammation.

At the conclusion of the study period, researchers found significant benefits in all three groups.

The probiotic group experienced an improvement in quality of life but not bowel function. The prebiotic group experienced improvements in bowel function but not quality of life. The symbiotic group (those that received both interventions) experienced improvements in both quality of life and bowel function.

Additionally, the researchers found a 76% drop in C-reactive protein (CRP) levels among those in the symbiotic group who had their blood taken. CRP is a well known marker for inflammation and is commonly used to assess heart disease risk.

The researchers also noted that there were no observable side effects associated with any of the interventions.
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