A probiotic called Bacillus polyfermenticus, which has shown to have anti-cancer effects, may also have benefits in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a new study shows. The two-phase study-one involving live mice and one involving human cells- was published in the American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology. It found that B. polyfermenticus was instrumental in helping mice recover from colitis, an IBD that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. The probiotic also helped increase blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) in the intestinal lining of the treated mice, which is imperative for repairing damaged tissue.

In the first phase of the study, mice were treated with B. polyfermenticus during the noninflammatory period of the disease. The study found that the treated mice had less rectal bleeding, their tissues were less inflamed, and they gained more weight than the untreated mice.

In the second phase of the study, researchers looked at what happened when human intestinal cells in a test tube were treated with B. polyfermenticus and found that the probiotic boosted the angiogenesis process. While previous studies have shown that angiogenesis actually plays a role in the flare-ups of colitis, the new study results suggest that once the flare-up subsides, angiogenesis is also necessary for healing to occur.

Probiotics are live microorganisms believed to be beneficial to the host organism when provided in adequate amounts. There is increasing evidence that shows probiotics could be a very effective treatment in IBD. Inflammatory bowel disease, which includes both colitis and Crohn's disease, affects as many as one million Americans. While ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease share some common signs and symptoms, such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, bloody stools, weight loss and fatigue, they are very different conditions. Crohn's disease affects the digestive tract between the mouth and the anus and ulcerative colitis affects only the large intestine (or colon).

Although, currently, there's no cure for either of these inflammatory bowel diseases, there are a number of effective treatments available, including anti-inflammatory drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics, anti-diarrheals, pain relievers and surgery. Changes in your diet and lifestyle may also help you control symptoms, including:

  • Eliminating problem foods that seem to make your symptoms worse, such as "gassy" foods like beans, fruits, caffeine and carbonated beverages.
  • Limiting dairy products, especially if you suspect you may be lactose intolerant (you can't digest the milk sugar (lactose) in dairy foods. If you are lactose intolerant, using an enzyme product like Lactaid, may help.
  • Eating small meals

Talk to your doctor about what might be the most effective treatment for you.