Tuesday, 8 July 2008

No milk today

Today I embarked on my rheumatologist instigated course of Probiotic yoghurts. The first hurdle was to decide which to buy. Do I go for Bifidus Digestivum? Bifidus acti-regularis? L. Casei Imunitass? Lactilus colonactiviatius? OK, I made that last one up. But, you can't help reading these bloody things and thinking they're all made up. They read like the results of a competition at the marketing departments christmas piss-up. Indeed there is a link to an article on lovely old wikipedia deconstructing each of these cod-latin terms here. Not a good place to start though, so if you're thinking of trying them, don't read that.

In the end I plumped for Actimel. Ths is made by Danone (who get a right spanking in the article linked above!). This was the brand suggested by the professor when asked... but I got the distinct impression he named the first one he thought of. He wasn't amused by my query about whether they sponsored him anyway. The final decision making factor was that they contain L. Casei Imunitass, which in my opinion sounds the most likely of those terms.

So, what the hell is it? Well, thats summed up nicely in another wikipedia article here. Its all based on a 'friendly' bacteria called Lactobacillus casei. This exists naturally in the gut and mouth, and when taken as a supplement can lead to the increase in intestinal microflora which on the whole is consider helpful in balancing the responses of the immune system in the bowel. Very nice too.

But does it really work? Well, I've had a little explore on the 'net (thanks google) and most of the research papers I've found (that I could understand) suggest that... no-one really knows! But the finest minds of medical science seem happy to agree that it sort-of-seems-too. Here's some of what I discovered:
  • p414 of this journal '2nd Probiotics, Prebiotics and NewFoods' has a summary paper about the responses of mice with colitis (!!!) to probiotics. Essentially they decided that the probiotics definately had some effect on the intestinal inflammation of the mouseys, but they're not sure exactly what. I have to say there is a definate trend in trying this stuff out on mice. In this particular one they removed the whole intesinal tract of the mice and transported it in dry-ice to the place where they did the testing. But I still can't over the fact they found some mice with colitis.
  • Daisy Jonkers, PhD and Reinhold Stockbrügger, MD, have written paper helpfully entitled 'Probiotics and inflammatory bowel disease'. Daisy and Rheinhold do go on rather a great deal about mucus but in the end reach the conclusion that "Studies on probiotics in animal models of colitis are promising" and "If probiotics do prove to have beneficial effects in IBD, investigation of the mechanisms may well lead to further advances in treatments". So, thats good. I think.
  • Delphine M.A. Saulnier goes one step further by examining the role of 'Synbiotics', although I can't help feeling were moving into the realm of Marvel comics here (Venom anyone?). Unfortunately I was not allowed access to the lovely delphines article, but her conclusions were as follows: "Recent human studies indicate that ingestion of synbiotics modulates the gut microbiota, promoting a healthier composition; it appears that synbiotics can be more efficient than either pro- or prebiotics alone in inducing this effect. Preliminary results have shown beneficial effects on biomarkers of diseases such as ulcerative colitis (UC) and colorectal cancers." So, that also sounds good, though it seems probiotics might work better in conjunction with prebiotics... whatever they are. And whereever you get them.
  • And then, blow me, but I only went and found a video that sums it all up rather nicely here. I only watched up to the part where they start talking surgery, because I'm a wimp. But watch and learn people, watch and learn. (Although, I'm sure the old guy talks about 'good' bacteria like "e-coli" - huh? Doesn't that stuff kill people?)

In the end of course the only true measure of how useful these yoghurts are is my bum. And wouldn't you know it, today has been the worst its been for about 2 weeks. Still, I'm gonna stick it out a bit longer - I'll keep you posted.


Maria said...

Your first paragraph had me in stitches - Lactilus colonactiviatius, if you hadn't spelt it out I would have believed it (!) especially reading it at this time of night, when I should be in bed and it's hard to imagine mice with UC.

I buy Muller's Vitality pre and pro-biotic drinks with omega 3 and often wonder if it is really doing any good or if I am wasting money with my weekly shop. I've just got it out of the fridge to see what it contains - Bifidobacterium sp., Lactobacillus acidophilus. As this is a pre and pro-biotic drink, does this mean it is a synbiotic???? It's so confusing!
Thanks for being our UC pre/pro-biotic drinks guinea pig and researcher, I hope they start working for you soon and improve your condition. I'll be watching out for your news on these products.

Maria said...

Me again - I came across a couple of links which may be of interest. Looks like VSL#3 may be the pre/pro-biotic which works but it looks like it has to be prescribed by the GP/Consultant.



Rich said...

Hi Maria - That's interesting stuff, thanks. I note your bifidobacterium sp. is in that VSL3stuff too. So you must on the right track with Vitality. I spent ages looking at Vitality on the big yoghurt decision day... if only i'd known about synbiotics then! I'm still not sure about these yoghurts but I guess its early days.

Incidently I had a look at this advert while I was following you links:


Its absolutely criminal! It would be funny if I didn't think some poor vulnerable fool would believe it and cough up the cash.

Maria said...

So, I take it you're not going to be our 'guinea pig' on this occasion and give 'Colitis Cure' a go! But wouldn't you even consider it if your situation was a desperate one?

Whilst looking at the colitiscured link I stumbled across this one with more info re probiotics etc: