probiotics may treat IBD via digestive bacteriaInflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has been one of the most frustrating conditions for gastroenterologists and their patients to treat, as this disorder—connected to a chronic immune response or inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract—requires lifelong treatment and has no cure.

The good news: Probiotics may have more value in treating forms and symptoms of IBD than ever before, based on the findings of a recent study published in the medical journal, Immunity.

Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York City discovered the connection by studying the behavior of the intestinal epithelium, a single-cell layer of tissue that covers the small and large intestine and prevents intestinal bacteria and related toxins from escaping and harming the rest of the body.

The link comes in the form of metabolites, a wide variety of chemicals secreted by intestinal bacteria that influence the intestinal epithelium’s integrity in once unknown ways, said Dr. Sridhar Mani (co-corresponding author of the study).

Metabolites activate healthy proteins

Researchers believed bacterial metabolites operated by binding to, then activating, pregnane X receptors (PXRs), proteins in the nuclei of intestinal epithelial cells. According to the study, PXRs could be activated by body chemicals, such as bile acids, along with drugs (antibiotics and steroids).

As a result of several mouse studies, scientists discovered indole 3-propionic acid (IPA), a metabolite produced only by bacteria that helps with digestion, strengthens functioning of the intestinal epithelium’s barrier and prevents inflammation by activating the PXRs.

PXR activation stops the development of the inflammatory protein tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a) and increases levels of a protein that boosts the junctions between adjacent intestinal epithelial cells, the study said.

How do probiotics help? “By adding probiotics in the form of IPA-producing bacteria to the intestine or by administering IPA directly, we may be able to prevent or treat IBD and other inflammatory diseases that occur when the intestinal epithelium has been compromised,” said Dr. Mani.

Additionally, Dr. Mani believes this probiotic strategy could be tested on other health problems related to the breakdown of the intestinal epithelium, ranging from some forms of liver disease to asthma, allergies, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Studies have shown strengthening your immune system and treating a host of health problems like those mentioned may be as easy as taking a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic and EndoMune Advanced Junior (for kids).