Probiotics Help Ulcers to Heal

Healthnotes Newswire (June 14, 2007)—While probiotics are usually used to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in the large intestine, new research suggests that they can also benefit the stomach, helping people with gastritis and peptic ulcer disease respond better to treatment.

Helicobacter pylori is a bacterium that can colonize the stomach, leading to gastritis and peptic ulcer disease in some people. Most people with these conditions are infected with H. pylori.

A combination of two antibiotics and an acid blocker—known as triple therapy—is used to treat gastritis and peptic ulcer disease associated with H. pylori infection. This approach, however, leads to side effects, such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, and has only a modest success rate (about 75%), so the search for other treatments continues.

A new study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, compared the effect of triple therapy by itself to triple therapy plus a probiotic and a compound from cow’s milk that has antibacterial, immune-sytem-boosting properties (bovine lactoferrin).

After H. pylori infection was confirmed for each of the 206 people in the study, they were randomly assigned to one of the two treatment groups: one week of triple therapy or triple therapy plus 200 mg of bovine lactoferrin and a probiotic twice a day. The probiotic provided a wide array of beneficial bacteria, mostly from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium families.

Eight weeks after the end of treatment, H. pylori tests were negative in 92% of those who added the lactoferrin and probiotic, but in only 76% of those treated with triple therapy alone. In addition to being more effective, the regimen that included lactoferrin and probiotic also caused fewer side effects: only 9.5% of the people who used the lactoferrin and probiotic, compared with 40.6% of those who received triple therapy alone, experienced side effects including nausea, diarrhea, a metallic taste in the mouth, headache, and abdominal pain.

The success rate with triple therapy seen in this study is similar to that seen in other recent reports. Its effectiveness has been declining, possibly due to increasing resistance to the antibiotics currently used to eradicate H. pylori. Improving the response rate and reducing side effects through adding nonantibiotic therapies could help prevent antibiotic resistance.

“The results obtained suggest that the synergistic effect of bovine lactoferrin and probiotics could improve the eradication rate and reduce the side effects of antibiotics both during and after treatment,” the researchers concluded. “These results need to be confirmed, but triple therapy plus bovine lactoferrin and probiotics could represent a valid alternative regimen to the standard H. pylori eradication protocol.”

(Am J Gastroenterol 2007;102:951–6)

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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