Can adding probiotic bacteria help reduce symptoms of RA?

Surprisingly, we each carry more friendly bacteria with us than we have cells. We have about 10 trillion human cells in an adult. We host 10 fold more bacteria—about 100 trillion bacteria. The healthy human gut contains from 400 to 1000 species of bacteria and yeasts. This group of bacteria and yeasts in our guts are called gut flora.

One of their main benefits is that they line the gut and cover our skin so that it’s harder for disease--causing bacteria to find a place to reside. Think of it like a neighborhood. If all the houses are occupied, it’s harder for the bad guys to get a foothold.

In addition, our normal gut flora help us:

* Digest our food by producing enzymes.

* Produce vitamin K vitamins for healthy bones. The Vitamin K family is essential for building strong bones because it modifies specific proteins so that they can bind calcium. The vitamin K family is also essential for proper clotting of blood.

* Produce vitamin Bs which are essential for the normal functioning of the rain, nerve tissue, and formation of blood.

* Stimulate the immune system to build important regulatory mechanisms for slowing down an immune response after it is no longer needed.

* Normalize gut function.

* Hinder disease-causing bacteria by their direct anti-microbial activity [1].

Probiotics are a large dose (1-5 billion) of friendly bacteria that are taken orally to help replenish some of the species of the human gut. Most sources of probiotics provide from 4 different species to 16 different species of friendly bacteria.

Food sources of probiotics include yogurt with active culture, sauerkraut with active culture, and any fermented food with active culture.

In addition, the efficacy of the probiotic GBI30, (Ganeden Biotech, Mayfield Heights, OH) containing 2 billion CFU of Bacillus coagulans was evaluated in a randomized, double- blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial [2]. Forty five adult men and women with rheumatoid arthritis for at least one year were enrolled, randomized to treatment and monitored. The treatment was 1 capsule of GB130 daily. Their medications for RA were maintained during the 60 day trial.

The treated group showed significantly greater improvement in the pain scale. As with medications, a subset of the patients responded. In this case, about 20-25% of patients improved in comparison to the placebo group [2].

Although the authors did not speculate on the responding population, those participants who had received antibiotics, thereby altering their normal bacterial communities in their gut, may benefit from restoring normal gut bacteria.

Other studies support the potential benefit of probiotics of various strains in the prevention [3] and / or treatment of arthritis [4].

As always, consult your healthcare provider to discuss any potential changes before adding supplements. In this case, probiotics is adding live (beneficial) bacteria to your intestines. So if you have leaky gut syndrome and are taking strong immunosuppressive drugs, please consult your physician before taking it.



Kathy Molnar-Kimber, Ph.D.

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1. Doron, S. and S.L. Gorbach, Probiotics: their role in the treatment and prevention of disease. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther, 2006. 4(2): p. 261-75. 2. Mandel, D.R., K. Eichas, and J. Holmes, Bacillus coagulans: a viable adjunct therapy for relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis according to a randomized, controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med, 2010. 10: p. 1. 3. So, J.S., et al., Lactobacillus casei potentiates induction of oral tolerance in experimental arthritis. Mol Immunol, 2008. 46(1): p. 172-80. 4. Goldin, B.R. and S.L. Gorbach, Clinical indications for probiotics: an overview. Clin Infect Dis, 2008. 46 Suppl 2: p. S96-100; discussion S144-51.


This information is not medical advise. Please consult your healthcare provider before changing your routine.