How Effective are Probiotics for Ulcerative Colitis?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2019
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The effectiveness of using probiotics for ulcerative colitis is not entirely known or understood, especially since no one knows exactly what causes the condition in the first place. Some studies have suggested that certain beneficial bacteria may prolong remission when used with conventional medication, and others have also noted that patients experienced a decrease in symptoms. Other studies have been contradictory to these findings because patients in some study groups showed no benefits when compared to a placebo group.

Use of probiotics for ulcerative colitis is in its earliest stages, so more research is needed to fully understand the ways in which introducing “good” bacteria effects the digestive system. When used in irritable bowel syndrome patients and those with other bowel diseases, probiotics have been proven beneficial at reducing symptoms and sometimes alleviating them for extended periods of time.

The exact mechanisms of how probiotics work is not entirely determined. It is known that both beneficial and detrimental bacteria are found naturally in the gut. The "good" varieties keep pathogenic forms from attaching to the intestinal walls where they can cause painful symptoms. Probiotics are capsules which contain millions of these beneficial bacterial flora in order to replenish those which are naturally occurring when they have been depleted, or when harmful bacteria multiply too quickly.


While the use of probiotics for ulcerative colitis is still being investigated, most doctors agree that there is no harm in taking them to help with symptoms. Patients may be asked to keep a journal of how effectively they seem to work and how long they have been taken when symptoms begin to subside. This should be done in combination with a list of foods consumed to determine if dietary changes or the probiotics are causing any positive changes.

When ordering probiotics for ulcerative colitis treatment, it is important to purchase a quality product. In general, the higher the bacteria count, the better the results. For this reason, patients should look for options with as high a count as possible with natural ingredients. Some also contain prebiotics, or sugars which help to feed the bacteria in order to keep it alive. Probiotics should be stored according to package directions in order to preserve the life of the bacterial flora for as long as possible.

Probiotics can be purchased online, in pharmacies, and in health food stores. There are various types, each containing different types of bacteria. In the treatment of bowel disorders, E. coli Nissle seems to be one of the most effective. There are also various strains of lactobacillus bacteria, the same types found in yogurt, which may be beneficial as well.



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