Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A probiotic drink that reduces irritable bowel symptoms

Note that this occurred among severe IBS sufferers so is no warrant for general use

For the first time in three years, Lynette McMeekin is looking forward to her staff Christmas party.

Previously, the nurse from Newcastle has declined the invitation — bloating and pain caused by her irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) made the idea of socialising unthinkable. ‘It left me feeling so bloated and exhausted that all I could manage was to go to work, do the odd bit of shopping and come home,’ says Lynette, 53, who has an adult son. ‘And I was so bloated that when I was at work I often felt embarrassed even walking across the ward.’

Around one in five people in Britain are affected by IBS, thought to be caused by a sensitive gut.

But Lynette’s symptoms were eased by a new drink containing ‘friendly’ bacteria, suggested to her by a colleague. ‘My attitude was “Not another probiotic!”, but I decided to give it a go,’ says Lynette. After a few months the bloating and discomfort have gone.

The drink she tried has just been the subject of a large British trial — one of the first to show convincingly that probiotics can make a difference to health.

In the study at King’s College London, 186 patients with IBS whose symptoms had not responded to conventional treatments were given the new probiotic in the form of a drink, at a dose of 1ml of drink per kilo of bodyweight. Two-thirds were given the drink every morning before breakfast for three months, while the remainder were given a placebo.

The severity of the symptoms of IBS is normally plotted on a scale up to 500. ‘Before taking part, the average scores for our patients was about 300,’ says gastro-enterologist Professor Ingvar Bjarnason, who led the study at King’s. ‘At the end of the study, those taking the placebo went down to 270. 'However, the average score for those taking the active drink dropped far more, to 220. ‘When you consider that with a score of 150 a patient would have no symptoms, it shows you how significant a reduction this was.

‘It did not work for everyone, but around 60 per cent of those on the active product showed an improvement.’

Professor Bjarnason says he believes the key to the success of his trial lies with the fact that the drink contains four strains of probiotic (many contain only one) and the bacteria used in the drink (called Symprove) were live. Many products consist of freeze-dried bacteria, which means that they are inactive until they mix with fluids in the digestive system, and a proportion will not survive the process.

‘I was really surprised by the results because I went into this trial thinking probiotics are a lot of nonsense,’ says Professor Bjarnason. ‘That is what a lot of doctors think, because there have never been robust trials conducted on them.

‘Probiotics are classed as a food, so trials of them don’t need to be as rigorous as they would be if they were classed as drugs — but we did carry out this one rigorously.’

He says that some patients experienced a relapse of symptoms once they stopped taking the drink. ‘My suspicion is that this treatment would need to be given for three months at a time twice a year, but we don’t know for sure yet,’ he says.

The average person’s gut is home to around 1,000 different types of bacteria. ‘There is a lot of evidence that people with IBS have insufficient quantities of beneficial bacteria in their gut,’ says Peter Whorwell, a professor of medicine and gastroenterology at the University of Manchester.

However, how probiotics might help with IBS is unclear. ‘Previous studies on probiotics have not involved so many people,’ says Professor Whorwell.

‘We generally say that if a treatment can produce a 50-point reduction in the severity of symptom score, then it is worth doing — so having a reduction of 80 points is significant. ‘However, it is impossible to be sure of the full significance of this study until all the study data is published next year.’


Four or more babies cuts risk of mother suffering cardiac disease

Good to see caution below about the exact cause of the correlation. My guess would be that fertility is increased by prior general good health

Having a big family is good for a mother's heart, say scientists. They found women who experience four or more pregnancies are less likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who never have a baby.

The study of nearly 1,300 post-menopausal women from south California found the key effect was prevention of stroke. Mothers of large families were half as likely to die from the condition.

Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, said higher levels of pregnancy hormones may have lasting benefits on the blood vessels. They added that women with more children may benefit from greater social support as a result when they get older.

Lead author Marni Jacobs, wrote in the journal Fertility and Sterility said: 'Women in this study had less CVD mortality risk if they had more than four pregnancies.

'The mechanism by which this decreased risk occurs is unknown, however, it may reflect higher fertility in healthier women, the effect of prolonged exposure to higher levels of circulating oestrogen... or the added social support from a larger family.'

The study followed the women between 1984 and 1987 and they were followed up again in 2007.

Professor Donald Peebles, spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said it could be that some of the childless women were infertile, which itself could raise the risk of heart disease. 'We know that women who want to get pregnant and cannot are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease because of conditions such as polycystic ovaries,' he told the Daily Telegraph.

It is known that heart disease kills as many men as it does women but the different ways they are affected are not fully understood.


1 comment:

John A said...

"Around one in five people in Britain are affected by IBS, thought to be caused by a sensitive gut."
‘I was really surprised by the results because I went into this trial thinking probiotics are a lot of nonsense,’ says Professor Bjarnason. ‘That is what a lot of doctors think...'
Sounds like the [digestive] ulcers experience should have set more investigation of problems, not persistently going with what has been "common sense" for over a century wirhout much evidence. Though I admit it is not something easy to think of: if "everybody knows X" then looking at X as perhaps being wrong seems, well, silly to most people.