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Probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri may help stomach cramps, irritable bowel syndrome

Posted Jun 09 2010 12:00am

FASEB.org - Canadian researchers have shown that a specific strain of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri decreases the force of muscle contractions in the gut within minutes of exposure. This bacterium naturally occurs in the gut of many mammals and can be found in human breast milk. This discovery suggests that increasing the intake of this bacterium may help alleviate symptoms of a wide range of gut disorders, such as the painful cramping of irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, functional bowel disorders, and constipation. It may also be another good reason to breastfeed babies.

“Scientifically and evidence-based approaches to nutrition to correct potential bacterial imbalance in the intestine and thereby promote better health and possibly restore health in diseases associated with these imbalances,” said Wolfgang Kunze, a researcher involved in the work from the McMaster Brain-Body Institute and Department of Psychiatry at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Ontario, Canada.

To make this discovery, Kunze and colleagues, introduced Lactobacillus reuteri into isolated pieces of small intestine taken from healthy and previously untreated mice. The bacterium was added to a warm salt solution flowing through the lumen, or hollow part, of the intestine and the pressure caused by natural contractions was measured before, during and after adding the bacterium. Relaxation of smooth muscle tissue was compared with the action of the bacterium. Researchers also tested the electrical activity of single intestinal sensory nerve cells.

“It might not be possible for most of us to get breast milk from the tap,” said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, “but we can still benefit from some of the life-supporting substances it carries. This research shows that the relationship between humans and microbes can be beneficial for both. The Lactobacillus finds a new home, and we’re no longer uptight.”

The abstract of this probiotic study is available free online here:

Reference: Bingxian Wang, et al. Luminal administration ex vivo of a live Lactobacillus species moderates mouse jejunal motility within minutes FASEB J. doi:10.1096/fj.09-153841

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