In recent years, yogurt and supplements containing probiotic bacteria have gained popularity as alternative medicine to treat gastrointestinal problems.
Researchers at the University Medical Center in the Netherlands now believe that the healthful bacteria may help mitigate the effects of pancreatitis, as they recently showed in a laboratory trial.
Study authors fed rats a probiotic-rich diet before and after inducing pancreatitis in the rodents. When compared to control animals, the supplemented subjects experienced lower severity of acute pancreatitis, characterized by less organ infection, lower amounts of dead tissue and a lowered immune response.
"This research has provided new knowledge on the possible mechanisms behind probiotic action," said lead author Jacoline Gerritsen. "In addition, it shows that bacterial species inhabiting the small intestine might be very important for health."
The researcher noted that previous studies neglected the small intestine because of difficulty obtaining samples, but that the medical community should shift its focus on this important part of the digestive system.