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Crohns Disease and Probiotics

Overview

Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease with no known cure. It affects your immune system, causing inflammation in your bowels and damage to your intestines and digestive tract. It’s characterized by episodes of flare-ups and remission.

Treatment for the disease aims to help you manage your symptoms. Supplying nutrients directly into your stomach or intestines via a tube can bring on remission. This process is often used to treat Crohn’s in children. Other methods include using anti-inflammatory drugs. Surgery may be recommended to remove or repair damaged areas of the digestive tract. Also, taking probiotics, which are “good” bacteria, can help your gut.

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Good bacteria in your gut

Not all bacteria are bad

Bacteria tend to get a bad rap. When we think of bacteria, we likely think of infection. However, not all bacteria are bad.

Many bacteria have evolved along with humans in a mutually beneficial relationship, such as the bacteria living in your digestive system. Scientists are beginning to understand how complex these partnerships are between healthy humans and the bacteria inside their guts.

In a healthy gut, there is a delicate balance of different bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria, called intestinal microflora, play an important role in immunity and digestion. These bacteria also have several implications for Crohn’s disease.

What happens when something disturbs this balance? Modern antibiotics can kill off infection, but they can also kill off good bacteria. This can set the stage for other, less friendly microbes to set up shop in your gut.

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Probiotics

Probiotics: Nature’s health food

Probiotics can help encourage the growth of good bacteria in your gut, providing health benefits. Good bacteria called probiotics are found in yogurt. Yogurt is often well tolerated even for people who are lactose intolerant, because bacteria that ferment milk digest most of the lactose.

Other fermented foods such as kimchi, sourdough bread, kefir, and some cheeses have also been used for nutritional and therapeutic purposes for a long time.

Most yogurts typically contain four to six beneficial strains of good bacteria. These strains take up residence in your gut and push out less beneficial bacteria. This process helps the lining of your gut stay healthy and keep your immune system strong.

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Benefits of probiotics

Investigating the benefits of probiotics

Consuming yogurt with active cultures is beneficial for most people. It provides needed calcium and calories.

Research conducted on the benefits of probiotics in treating Crohn’s symptoms has not shown consistent results. It appears probiotic therapy may play a more beneficial role for people who have colonic Crohn’s rather than ileum Crohn’s.

Fecal transplants that improve gut flora diversity have also shown promise in some Crohn’s patients with recurrent E. coli infections. So probiotics that improve the gut flora may be helpful as well.

People with Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis also have significantly decreased amounts of the healthy Firmicutes and Bacteriodetes bacteria. However, these strains are not typically present in yogurt.

More research is needed to identify the role of probiotics in relation to Crohn’s.

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Side effects

Side effects of probiotics

Side effects from probiotics are typically mild and may include:

  • diarrhea
  • gas
  • bloating
  • cramps
  • rashes
  • acne

Be sure to stay hydrated when taking probiotics. It may take some time for your body to get adjusted to them. Also, if the side effects become severe, see your doctor immediately.

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Outlook

Outlook

Most studies show some promise of probiotics in helping to relieve Crohn’s symptoms. Although yogurt contains probiotics, it may not be concentrated enough or have the right strains to provide therapeutic value for someone with Crohn’s. A concentrated probiotic supplement is a good option, especially for someone with lactose intolerance or a milk allergy who can’t tolerate yogurt.

In general, yogurt is good for you. It provides you with protein, calcium, calories, and potassium. It may also help you maintain a healthy gut and live a healthy life. 

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