Rheumatoid arthritis and probiotics

I wrote in my last post about the positive health effects of probiotics in a range of health conditions. Two recent papers have reported results from a small clinical trial in women with rheumatoid arthritis. In this randomised double-blinded clinical trial (in other words, this is the most rigorous form of clinical trial in which neither doctors nor patients know who is being treated with the drug and who is being treated with a placebo), the ‘drug’ group received a capsule of probiotics (containing 108 colony forming units of Lactobacillus casei 01), while the control group received a lacebo (a similar looking capsule with no pro-biotics in it).

The treatment lasted for eight weeks and was assessed by looking at various inflammatory markers from the blood (IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12 and TNF-alpha), as well as assessing how symptoms changed over time. The good news was that the women in the treatment group registered changes in these inflammatory markers and also decreased tendernes and swelling in the joints and did better in terms of symptoms than the control group. There were no side-effects to the treatment either.

The trial concludes that ‘Probiotic supplementation may be an appropriate adjunct therapy for RA patients and help alleviate symptoms and improve inflammatory cytokines.’

In other words, taking probiotics has a measurable effect that has been proven in a clinical trial and might well provide some benefit to people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Note that this study used pro-biotic tablets, which are easily available, but it’s possible that there some of the benefits could come from eating foods that are high in probiotics, such as yoghurts and pro-biotic drinks.

The papers reporting these results are not available for free download – unfortunately they are not published as open access. You can view one of the abstracts here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24673738

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