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Probiotics May Alter Gut Bacteria to Reduce Risk of Serious Liver Condition

Probiotic supplementation may help reduce the risk of developing hepatic encephalopathy in patients with cirrhosis (liver disease).

Hepatic encephalopathy is a spectrum of neuropsychiatric abnormalities that occur in people with liver failure. Symptoms range from disorientation to coma and it is extremely hard to treat.

Participants in the study included 160 individuals with cirrhosis between the ages of 18 and 80 years old. Eighty-six of the participants were given a probiotic supplement three times daily while the other 74 were used as a control group.

The researchers followed the participants for 38 to 40 weeks (or until an individual died). They were tested every three months for arterial ammonia levels, critical flicker frequency, glucose hydrogen, and lactulose hydrogen breath tests.

During the course of the trial, six participants in the probiotic group and five in the control group passed away.

At the three-month point, the researchers found notable improvements in arterial ammonia, small intestinal bacterial growth, transit time in the small intestine, and minimal hepatic encephalopathy in the probiotic group. At the conclusion of the study, they calculated that the control group was two times more likely to develop hepatic encephalopathy than the probiotic group.

The researchers believe that these positive effects are a result of the probiotics changing participant’s gut microbiota in such a way that they combat ammonia buildup, which has been shown to lead to hepatic encephalopathy.

Researchers from the G.B. Pant Hospital in New Delhi, India, conducted the study. It was presented at the International Liver Congress the week of April 24, 2013.
Probiotics are most commonly linked to improving digestion and gut health, but they have also been shown to have other health benefits, including weight loss, a stronger immune system, and a reduced risk of chronic disease.

Probiotics can be found naturally in many foods, such as yogurt, milk and sauerkraut. You may also consider taking a high quality supplement but make sure it is packaged to block light, air and moisture which can easily kill probiotics.

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