Probiotics may help reduce some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis but more research needed

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probiotic, rheumatoid arthritis, supplement, arthritis digestProbiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are believed to have health benefits. Usually added to yoghurts or taken as food supplements, they are often described as “good bacteria”.

As well as helping restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut, they are said (by some) to have a positive impact on the immune system and people with rheumatoid arthritis are increasingly trying them alongside their mainstream treatments.

However, there is little research to support many of the health claims made about probiotics. Experts have now looked at the evidence relating to the impact of probiotics and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and report their findings in Inflammopharmacology. Only four trials were of good enough quality to include and these involved 153 people (89% female).

Probiotics did reduce levels of C-reactive protein and disease activity score compared to a placebo. But they did not significantly change the inflammatory markers measured (erythrocyte sedimentation rate, TNF levels and interleukin levels) and oxidative stress indices. And they had no significant impact on tender or swollen joint counts.

“The number of trials was too small to determine if a strain-, dose-, or duration-response effect was present,” the research group concludes.

However, some of the results are encouraging, so if budget allows, a good quality probiotic is worth trying in addition to the rheumatoid arthritis treatments prescribed and recommended by healthcare professionals.

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