Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). They are chronic conditions with no known cure, unpredictable flare-ups, and debilitating symptoms. However, an imbalance in gut flora is an emerging risk for the development of these conditions. Dietary changes can also lead to significant improvements in symptoms.
Inflammation of the gut is responsible for IBD symptoms. So, many ask, “How can I reduce inflammation in my intestines?” These facts suggest probiotics and other supplements can restore the gut flora and benefit individuals with IBD.
In this article, we’ll discuss which supplements improve gut flora for IBD. You’ll also learn how to reduce inflammation and boost overall gut health.
Adults have three to five pounds of “friendly” bacteria in the gut, mostly in the large intestine. We refer to this gut flora. The gut flora plays an important role in digestion, immune system function, gene expression, and overall health. Healthy gut flora is diverse. It includes a variety of bacterial strains, which also have to be in balance.
Concerning IBD, scientists found an association with reduced bacterial diversity, decreased Firmicutes bacteria, and increased Proteobacteria. There are two promising therapies that can help restore the gut flora and manage IBD. These are probiotic supplements and fecal transplants.
Probiotics may be helpful when taken with antibiotics which can manage Crohn’s disease. Adding prebiotics, fibers that feed probiotics could also help. This is because they feed the bacteria in the gut. Research is still ongoing. Unfortunately, not all probiotic bacteria have the same therapeutic effects. Therefore, there is no formula that works for everyone.
Various species of lactobacilli and bifido probiotics, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast, and high potency probiotic VSL #3 showed beneficial results.
You may need to try a few different probiotic formulas before finding one that helps you. When choosing a probiotic, it should be:
- No artificial fillers
- Multiple strains of lactobacillus
- Multiple strains of bifido
You can also make your own probiotic at home. Fermented vegetables, yogurt, and dairy-free kefir are great sources of probiotics.
As for prebiotics, you can get them from asparagus, beets, garlic, carrots, and lentils.
Many people have a Vitamin D deficiency. The lack of this vitamin could be a link to IBD. It may also cause more inflammation, more common flare-ups, steroid treatment, and hospital stays.
Vitamin D has strong anti-inflammatory effects. It also helps modulate the immune system and maintain the integrity of the gut wall. Concerning the gut, Vitamin D also has a positive impact on gut flora.
It’s worth testing your blood for Vitamin D levels and correcting any deficiencies. Since foods contain limited amounts of Vitamin D, many people take supplements. You can also receive it naturally through direct sunlight.
Curcumin is the key active ingredient of the turmeric root. People in Eastern cultures have used this medicinal plant for thousands of years. Based on research studies, it contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.
Research for IBD management shows mixed results. However, some studies found turmeric can be useful as an add-on therapy. One study showed a high dose (3 grams daily) of turmeric root significantly improved ulcerative colitis. It improved disease activity and induced remission when people took the drug mesalamine.
Another study, which involved participants with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, showed turmeric reduced symptoms and decreased the need for corticosteroids or aminosalicylic acid derivatives.
Scientists researched turmeric in hundreds of studies for other inflammatory and chronic conditions. There is some evidence that turmeric promotes gut health by modulating gut flora.
Additional Natural IBD Supplements
There are other natural supplements that help manage IBD.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can cause the following nutrient deficiencies:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin K
- Other B Vitamins
Take iron supplements if your blood test confirms a deficiency. Otherwise, a multimineral formula without iron would be a better choice.
Omega 3 fatty acids show potential to improve IBD symptoms, especially when taken along with other vitamins and minerals.
A special, individualized nutrient-rich diet can eliminate food sensitivities that trigger IBD. Generally, avoiding processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods is a good start.
Gut flora relies on the three P’s:
So, based on this information, fruits and vegetables are key to a healthy gut.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) shows symptom improvement and gut mucosa healing. The low FODMAP diet, Mediterranean diet, gluten-free, and anti-inflammatory diets are also under research.