Probiotics have received a lot of attention lately but they don’t come without their risks for people who suffer from ulcerative colitis. Beware of what kind of probiotics you use!
By Dawn Flemming
If you look through the shelves in super markets, you will see a plethora of probiotics. They are in milk, yogurt and even soups. You have tons of different brands of probiotics from lower to exuberantly high prices.
The idea behind probiotics is that they populate the gut with good bacteria which are critical in managing your immune system and stress responses. It is thought that bad bacteria are one of the primary contributors to inflammatory autoimmune diseases.
Not all probiotics are the same. They also work differently depending on the kind of autoimmune diseases you have. If you suffer from ulcerative colitis, it is probably a bad idea to try highly fermented kefir. This is because kefir contains certain microorganisms and bioactive compounds that may further irritate inflammation in the colon.
This doesn’t only apply to kefir, but other kinds of probiotics that may have some bacterial strains that people with ulcerative colitis don’t tolerate well as they may lead to bloating, gas, and further irritation.
There are probiotics like VSL#3 that are designed with specially selected strains to help put UC symptoms into remission. One study of VSL#3 found that the remission or response rate to VSL#3 was 77% for ulcerative colitis patients:
Treatment of patients with mild to moderate UC, not responding to conventional therapy, with VSL#3 resulted in a combined induction of remission/response rate of 77% with no adverse events. At least some of the bacterial species incorporated in the probiotic product reached the target site in amounts that could be detected.
Unfortunately, probiotics are not covered by most insurers, meaning that you must purchase them at full price. VSL#3 can be quite expensive. However, there is a way around it. Try purchasing a yogurt maker and use a VSL#3 capsule as your yogurt base. Let it ferment for 24 hours and you will get as much, if not more probiotics per cup than a standard dosage of VSL pills - all of it with the VSL strains!
If you suffer from ulcerative colitis and want to use probiotics as a supplement to your medication, please make sure to speak to your doctor first.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.