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.