Probiotics: New Naturally Occurring Inhibitor Of ALS Progression

Probiotics: New Naturally Occurring Inhibitor Of ALS Progression

Bacterial imbalance in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract was found to contribute to the rapid progression of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. The research team comprised of scientists from Kansas City University (KCU) and the University of Illinois. Their study focused on the potential use of probiotics as a treatment option for ALS.

The study published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics found profound evidence suggesting that gut microbiota targeted with natural bacteria products successfully alleviated ALS progression in animal models.

ALS is a fatal progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the neurons that control voluntary muscle movement. As the disease progresses muscles weaken, the patient experiences gradual muscle loss which ultimately affects how the body functions. In the late stages of the disease, the patient experiences respiratory failure resulting in death.

“Due to the severe and rapidly progressing neuromuscular symptoms, the majority of study on ALS has focused on neurodegeneration,” said Dr. Zhou of KCU. Dr. Zhou and her team hope that their findings encourage more scientists to consider all the contributors to the disease that are outside of the central nervous system.

During the study the researchers found that the mouse models with abnormal colonies of gastrointestinal bacteria and lesions before the disease set on. They then introduced 2% Butyrate, a bacterial metabolic by-product, in the animal’s drinking water. The Butyrate normalised and restored the intestinal environment and improved the lesions. Consequently, the lifespan of the mouse with ALS was increased.

The ALS mouse model was found to have reduced levels of bacteria that produce Butyrate in the intestine. This sparked a discussion on how the ALS related gene mutations affect the gut function and ALS progression. The study developed a targeted treatment for the gut microbiome and GI functions: Butyrate.

Butyrate is a naturally occurring product of intestinal fermentation of dietary fibres in the colon and plays important role in the physiology of many organs. Treatment with Butyrate restored some of the defects of the intestines and as a result prolonged their lifespan.

The scientists also observed the response of epithelial cells found in human intestines after treatment with Butyrate. It reduced the amount of ALS trigger – mutant protein SOD1 – in the cells. This demonstrated the complexity of the role of the gut bacteria population and intestinal epithelium in the advancement of the disease. It also showed the potency of Butyrate as a therapeutic agent that restores microbial imbalance.

What is Butyrate?

Butyrate is a fatty acid that corrects the function of the gut to properly manage gut-related diseases. It is found in foods or food supplements but can also be synthesised by the fibre found in your gut. To create Butyrate, the microorganisms found in the GI tract digest food by fermenting certain dietary fibre.

It helps the digestive system function properly by controlling the growth of cells found in the lining of the gut. It ensures that dying old cells are adequately replaced by new cells. It also provides an important source of energy for the cells found in the GI tract.

It also possesses immense anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial in preventing cancer development; improving immune system health and avoiding autoimmunity; alleviating inflammation of the gut; and in controlling progression of neurodegenerative disorders like ALS.

Which foods contain Butyrate?

Butter and other foods with high dairy fat content are a good source of Butyrate. In other words, the fattier the food, the more Butyrate it will have.

For people who are lactose intolerant, your gut can produce the Butyrate it needs provide you eat enough fibre. This explains why increased fibre intake reduces inflammation and improves overall gut health. It is all in the Butyrate produced by the gut and not the fibre per se.

If your gut is not healthy enough to produce the Butyrate you need, there are supplements available Butyrate supplements are available over the counter.

In this study Butyrate acted as a probiotic in the treatment of ALS.

So, what are probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) that are able to prevent and treat illnesses. We often think of bacteria as a bad thing that causes diseases. However, our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are bacteria of the helpful variety because they help keep your gut healthy.

They can be naturally occurring in our bodies or can be found in some foods and supplements. Only in the last decades have these extremely beneficial microbes become a subject of research. More and more people want to know more about them and their benefits.

Probiotics are usually prescribed to help with digestive tract problems. They also promote a healthy immune system.

How do they work?

Scientists are yet to discover exactly how probiotics work but there are various ways that they can keep you healthy:

  • They replace “good” bacteria that are lost by the body. Good bacteria could easily be lost after taking a course of antibiotics
  • Probiotics help in balancing “good” and “bad” bacteria to keep the body functioning at its optimal

The most common probiotics come from one of the following groups:

Lactobacillus is the most common probiotics as it is the one found in yoghurt and fermented foods. It is known to help with diarrhoea and also lactose intolerance – inability to digest the sugar found in milk.

Bifidobacterium can also be found in dairy products. It helps alleviate the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other conditions.

The benefits of Butyrate as an anti-inflammatory therapeutic reagent are known and even how it promoted gut health. However, its use as an effective probiotic in the treatment of ALS patients is still not assured. Promising as it seems, the study results remain preliminaries and the research has a long way before Butyrate based therapies are used to treat ALS patients.

The scientists are hopeful that theirs will be the first of a series of studies surrounding use of Butyrate in the treatment of ALS patients. According to Dr. Robert White of KCU, “This research represents a significant and innovative approach to understanding and treating ALS.”