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Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus), can help the gut absorb nutrients, break down food, and defend the body against disease-causing organisms. Considered “good bacteria,” probiotics reside in the human gut, mouth, and vagina, as well as certain supplements and foods.
This article will explore the evidence behind what probiotics do for diverticulitis and the types of probiotics available.
What Do Probiotics Do For Diverticulitis?
It is important to emphasize that the evidence on the effectiveness of probiotics for diverticulitis is still inconclusive, and more research is needed. Some studies have shown that certain probiotic strains may help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms of diverticulitis, while others have shown no benefit. A 2016 review of 11 studies (764 participants) of probiotics for diverticulitis was inconclusive on whether the probiotics were helpful because of the poor quality of the studies.
Those suffering from diverticulitis should speak to a healthcare provider before taking probiotics, as they can interact with other medications and may not be appropriate for everyone. Your provider may also recommend other remedies for your specific condition.
Although data on probiotics specifically for diverticular disease is limited, there is some research to suggest that probiotics may provide some health benefits for the gut, including:
Anti-inflammatory benefits that help the colon’s microbial balance
An increase in anti-infective defenses by maintaining the appropriate bacterial colonization in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
Preventing bacterial overgrowth
Metabolizing (digesting) pathogens, organisms that cause disease
Probiotics may help your body maintain a healthy amount of microorganisms or help it return to its normal, healthy state after an illness. In this way, probiotics may help to influence your body’s immune response positively.
Historically, probiotics appear to be relatively safe for healthy individuals. The most commonly reported side effect is bloating. However, there has not been enough research on the frequency and severity of potential side effects of probiotics.
One potential drawback of probiotics is that they may be risky for those with severe illnesses or a compromised immune system. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if the potential risks of probiotics are worth the potential benefits.
Other rare but significant risks of probiotics may include:
It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate probiotic supplements like prescription medications. Many probiotics are sold as dietary supplements and don’t require FDA approval.
Probiotics are identified by their specific strain. Some common microbial organisms used in probiotic products may include:
Lactobacillus acidophilus (L. acidophilus): May help reduce the risk of diarrhea while taking antibiotics, prevent the overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina, or help with digestive tract infections.
Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii): May help prevent diarrhea, acne, and digestive tract infections that lead to ulcers.
Bifidobacterium (B. lactis): May be effective in aiding with colic in babies, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and respiratory tract infections.
Probiotics can be found in some of the following foods and products:
Fermented foods: Yogurt, some cheeses, Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, and raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar
Unfermented foods: Juices, smoothies, cereals, nutrition bars, and baby formula
Supplements: In capsule, powder, or liquid form containing various probiotic strains and doses
It is important to note that the effects of many commercial probiotic products have yet to be thoroughly researched. Foods and supplements are only effective probiotics if their microorganism levels are sufficient, when they are eaten, and whether they survive through intestinal transit.
Where to Find Quality Probiotics
Some probiotics products have been specifically tested for gastrointestinal disorders, including:
You can find many probiotic foods and supplements in your local grocery store or online.
Immediate relief for mild symptoms during a diverticulitis flare-up may include:
A clear liquid diet
Tylenol (acetaminophen) or a heating pad for abdominal pain
Antibiotics, in the case of infection
Before taking probiotics, it is essential to discuss them with a healthcare provider to ensure any potential benefits outweigh any possible risks.
When Not to Use Probiotics for Diverticulitis
It is important to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new probiotic supplements or making changes to your diet if you have diverticulitis. Your healthcare provider can help determine if probiotics are appropriate for you and recommend specific strains or products that may benefit your individual needs.
Also, talk with a healthcare provider before taking probiotics if you have a weakened immune system or other health conditions. Probiotics may not be recommended as they might increase the risk of infection. Taking antibiotics along with probiotics may reduce the effects of the antibiotics. Your healthcare provider may recommend probiotics at least two hours before or after antibiotics.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that may have health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. However, the evidence on the effectiveness of probiotics for diverticulitis is still limited. Some studies have shown that certain probiotic strains may help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms of diverticulitis, while others have shown no benefit.
Discuss any changes to your diet or supplement regimen with a healthcare provider is always a good idea. Probiotics may sometimes interfere with medications or exacerbate certain health conditions. If you decide to take a probiotic, look for a reputable brand that lists the specific strains and amounts of bacteria on the label.
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