Probiotics Offer Benefits in Multiple Sclerosis
Results of a new trial suggest that certain probiotics can improve mental health, metabolic function, and disability among individuals with multiple sclerosis. This study is just one of several that has explored the impact of beneficial bacteria on the symptoms and progression of multiple sclerosis.
How do probiotics help with multiple sclerosis?
Sixty individuals participated in the double-blind, placebo-controlled, 12-week trial. Half of the volunteers were randomly assigned to take a placebo while the other half were given a probiotic capsule that contained Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. fermentum, and Bifidobacterium bifidum.
Everyone was evaluated both before the trial began and at the conclusion using the expanded disability status scale (EDSS) and mental health testing. Here’s what the investigators found:
- Compared with the placebo group, volunteers who took the probiotics showed an improvement in EDSS, Beck Depression Inventory, Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale, and general health
- Those taking probiotics demonstrated positive changes in high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) as well as nitric oxide metabolites and malondialdehyde (markers of oxidative stress)
- Probiotic users also had a significant decline in insulin, insulin resistance, and total/HDL cholesterol and a significant increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels. These results are important because people with multiple sclerosis have a high risk of insulin resistance and elevated cholesterol
The authors also pointed out that “The anti-inflammatory and antioxidative actions of probiotics may be useful to overcome and shorten the duration of neurological symptoms during relapses.” It’s also significant to note that the probiotic species used in this study are among those readily available in supplement form.
Why do probiotics help multiple sclerosis?
Previous research has indicated that the gut bacteria among people with MS differs from that of those without the disease. It’s also been shown that an imbalance in gut bacteria could play a significant role in the development, prevention, and treatment of the disease.
One more reason to consider taking probiotics for MS is evidence that the disease has a connection with inflammatory bowel disease, a condition that responds to beneficial bacteria. Considering the positive findings around probiotics and multiple sclerosis and the safety of the supplement, it seems worthwhile talking to your healthcare provider about including beneficial bacteria as part of your management program.
Kouchaki E et al. Clinical and metabolic response to probiotic supplementation in patients with multiple sclerosis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clinical Nutrition 2016 online
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