The microflora in the gut is home to more than 500 different species of bacteria. This might seem like a disconcerting figure, but the majority of the bacteria are helpful in keeping pathogens at bay. Bacteria is also responsible for aiding digestion, absorbing nutrients, and contributing to immune function, Harvard Health confirmed. The health potential of taking probiotics is numerous, from helping with diarrhoea and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, to ulcerative colitis.
Ulcerative colitis (UC)
UC is a disease of the rectum and colon (i.e. the large intestine) where inflammation can lead to ulcers.
Most doctors agree that UC is related to how patients react to the “friendly” bacteria in their gut.
Why the body reacts so badly to what would otherwise be considered harmless and helpful bacteria is still being researched.
Symptoms of UC:
- Bleeding from the back passage
- Pain in the abdomen
- Mucus on poo
- Sore eyes
- Painful joints
- Skin rashes
- Unexplained weight loss
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The severity of symptoms likely depends on how inflamed the colon is at the time.
Harvard Health added that probiotics could potentially treat or prevent:
- Crohn’s disease
- Urinary tract infections
- Recurrence of bladder cancer
The results of clinical trials are mixed, but several studies have shown that “probiotics may help maintain remission of ulcerative colitis and prevent relapse of Crohn’s disease”.
The NHS stated that probiotics are thought to “restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut” when its been disrupted.
The British Nutrition Foundation stated that survival rates vary between different strains.
However, once the live strain reaches the gut, it can “influence the composition and activity of the gut microflora”.
“You may find a particular type of probiotic helps with one problem,” said the NHS.
“But this doesn’t mean it’ll help other problems, or that other types of probiotic will work just as well.”
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