Probiotics and inflammatory bowel disease

There are two types of inflammatory bowel disease; Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Although very different diseases, both disorders cause the intestinal tract to become inflamed, bleed easily, and form sores or scars. Bowel disease symptoms include severe intestinal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever, fatigue, even weight loss.

These days there is considerable public, media, and scientific interest in ‘natural’ products like probiotics and the effect on intestinal inflammation and health. Increasing evidence suggests that inflammatory bowel disease is triggered by an imbalance in the ratio of ‘bad’ to ‘good’ bacteria in the gut. In recent studies, probiotic bacteria have demonstrated beneficial effects in the gut by increasing the number of ‘good’ bacteria, enhancing the immune system and promoting a barrier to harmful bacteria. These findings have led researchers to study the effectiveness of probiotics in treating Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

In a recent study out of the University of Alberta in Canada, researchers evaluated the effects of six weeks of treatment with probiotics in 34 patients with active mild to moderate ulcerative colitis. Fifty-three per cent of those treated with probiotics were found to have experienced a remission of their disease; 24 per cent had a significant decrease in their symptoms without any significant side effects.

Although research from preliminary studies such as this one are promising, particularly when it comes to ulcerative colitis, it is too soon to recommend probiotic-containing foods or supplements for the management of inflammatory bowel disease. In the meantime, what we do know is that eating probiotic foods such as yogurt and kefir (a fermented milk product) are good for your health.

When buying yogurt and kefir read the labels! Pick a product that contains at least one billion active cells per serving. And, look for products with well-studied types of bacteria, such as lactobacillus or bifidobacterium.

I hope the following recipe will inspire some of you to try a different spin on your regular smoothie.

Ingredients:

8 oz (1 cup) plain kefir milk

1/2 banana

4 strawberries

1 tsp honey

Dash of cinnamon

Directions

Place all the ingredients in the blender and pulse untill combined. Don’t blend too long as the heat of the blender can reduce the probiotics in kefir. Pour into a glass and enjoy.

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