5 posts tagged “MS research and patients”

Probiotics for MS? The latest research

Posted 3 months ago by

Wondering if a probiotic could help treat your MS? With 10 forum threads on the topic, you’re not the only one. From conflicting information online to recommendations from friends and new research making headlines, separating fact from fiction can be tricky. Here’s a recap of the latest research on probiotics and MS from our in-house team of health professionals.

Let’s start with the basics: What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually bacteria or yeast) that may be able to help prevent and treat some illnesses and encourage a healthy digestive tract and immune system. They’re often referred to as “gut-friendly” bacteria.

  • Where can you get them? Probiotics are often in supplements or foods (like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, tempeh, etc.) that are prepared by bacterial fermentation.
  • A couple probiotic bacteria that have been shown to have health benefits include: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Within those groups are many different species and strains. Many probiotic supplements (broad-spectrum or multi-probiotics) combine different species together in the same supplement.
  • Gut flora (microbiota) consists of hundreds of different types of microorganisms. Probiotics may help improve the way your gut flora performs.
Why is gut health important for MS?
  • Your gut does more than digest food — it plays an essential role in the immune system.
  • There are both anti-inflammatory microbes and microbes that cause inflammation by adding stress to the immune system. When your gut bacteria is out of balance, it can have a negative impact on your health.
  • Some research shows, an MS gut may have more pro-inflammatory bacteria like Methanobrevibacter and Akkermansiaas and less anti-inflammatory bacteria like Butyricimonas.
  • Newer research shows there may be a link between gut flora and the progression of MS.
The latest research on probiotics for MS
  • While there have been studies in mice models and bacteria, there are only two clinical trials that have studied the effects of probiotics in patients with MS.
  • pilot study tested 22 patient fecal samples before and after administering VSL3 (a probiotic mixture with 8 strains of lactic acid–producing bacteria including: L. plantarum, L. delbrueckii subsp. Bulgaricus and L. acidophilus) for markers of inflammation which has been associated with the progression of MS.
    • Results: There was an increased anti-inflammatory effect in the cells after administration of probiotic.
  • randomized controlled trial treated 60 patients with a probiotic containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus fermentum.
    • Results: The study demonstrated that the use of probiotic capsule for 12 weeks among patients with MS had favorable effects on EDSS (Expanded Disability Status Scale), mental health, and inflammatory factors.
    • Based on the results, the difference in EDSS levels between treatment and placebo was statistically significant, however, was not clinically significant (meaning, we need more evidence).
The bottom line:

Should you start taking a probiotic? The jury’s still out. Based on the two trials and the other non-patient studies, there seems to be a link between gut flora and the progression of MS. However, at this time there isn’t enough data or clinical benefit to support the use of probiotics for MS.

Considering taking a probiotic to treat your MS? Be sure to talk to your doctor.

Have you tried taking a probiotic to treat your MS? Join PatientsLikeMe and share your experience with the community.

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Confessions of a research study addict: “It’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.”

Posted 5 months ago by

Elizabeth is a member of the 2018 Team of Advisors living with MS and a self-described research addict. Here’s what she had to say about her experience contributing to research and why “it’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.”

I’ve always been a sucker for a focus group. Give me some free pizza and I’ll tell you everything you want to know about your product, service or ad campaign. In fact, I got into advertising as a career because I liked the research part of it so much.

So, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I applied that same mindset to my disease approach.

The first MS research study I did came a few months after my doctor prescribed Avonex. For someone with a virulent needle phobia, a weekly intramuscular shot sounded almost worse than having MS. So I spent the next few months imagining myself on a beach—right before I tried in vain to push an inch-and-a-half needle into my leg. The meditation didn’t quite take, but my passion for research didn’t waiver (thank goodness for a husband who didn’t mind giving shots and, later, the Avonex quick inject pen!)

Next came the EPIC Study — “an intensive observational study of over 500 people with MS who have been carefully studied since 2004.” I even got my parents involved as a control group. Once a year for twelve years I’ve been getting evoked potentials, an eye screening, a hand-eye coordination exam, and a bonus MRI — I also play a dreaded number addition memory game. I’m proud to be part of this study—last week I was lucky enough to see some of the preliminary findings that I contributed to (hint: there is some AMAZING stuff happening in the MS therapy world.)

I made a brief, but unsuccessful, journey into a Copaxone clinical trial where I had the honor of getting lipoatrophy faster than any patient my doc has ever seen. My case even made it into a medical journal. And while the dents in my thighs never let me forget this one, I like to think my experience helped someone else avoid their own unseemly dents.

My research obsession doesn’t stop with MS. I fit a patient profile for a breast screening study to determine if mammograms alone or with a DNA test can improve outcomes for detecting early cancers. I was happy to be a part of this work, plus I learned I don’t have a carrier gene—a nice bonus of helping out.

Yes, health studies are a bit addictive to me. I get a thrill from trying a new approach or having my data contribute to a new protocol. And while there are different levels of research (especially when it comes to drug trials), every observation, every data point moves our collective understanding about MS and chronic illness forward. I’m grateful to play a role in that; it’s powerful to use a devastating diagnosis for good.

So, what’s next? The other day I heard about an MS gut microbiome study. The details are…a little gross. But sign me up!

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