Probiotics may improve alcoholics’ liver health: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gut flora, Liver disease

A pilot study from Russia and the US indicates that supplements of Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus plantarum 8PA3 may improve the health of an alcoholic’s liver.

Writing in the journal Alcohol​, researchers from Northern State Medical University in Russia and the University of Louisville School of Medicine also report that short-term supplementation improved the gut health of alcoholics.

“The present study demonstrates several potentially important and novel results,” ​wrote lead author Irina Kirpich.“First, it is the largest study to date demonstrating specific alterations in the bowel flora of alcoholics.

“Secondly, this is the first human pilot study demonstrating a potential therapeutic role for probiotics in the short-term treatment of alcoholic liver disease. Probiotic therapy was associated with an increase in the number of fecal bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. This suggests that probiotic therapy played a causal role in the improvement in liver enzymes.”

The study adds to a small but growing body of research supporting the potential of probiotic bacterial strains for alcoholics. Previously, researchers at University College London reported that Lactobacillus casei​ Shirota supplements could restore the immune function of white blood cells in alcoholics (Journal of Hepatology​, Vol. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2008.02.015).

Study details

For the new study, Kirpich and her co-workers recruited 66 Russian men with alcoholic psychosis. The prospective, randomized, clinical trial assigned them to receive Bifidobacterium bifidum​ and Lactobacillus plantarum​ 8PA3 (Algibif and Algilac, Microgen/Imbio, Moscow), or the standard therapy, which involved vitamin supplements and abstaining from alcohol.

The gut microflora of the alcoholics before the study started was found to contain significantly less bifidobacteria, lactobacilli, and enterococci than the healthy controls. After five days of supplementation, the researchers noted that both the bifidobacteria and lactobacilli numbers increased in alcoholics receiving the probiotics, from 6.3 to 7.9 log CFU/g, and lactobacilli from 3.15 to 4.2 log CFU/g.

Improvements in levels of certain enzymes, like alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), were also noted in the probiotic-receiving men.

“These data suggest that modulation of the bowel flora may play a role in the pathogenesis and treatment of alcoholic liver disease and indicate a need for larger and more rigorously designed clinical trials to support the use of probiotics in alcoholic liver disease,”​ wrote the researchers.

“Furthermore, this study calls for future animal studies to better define the mechanism of action of B. bifidum and L. plantarum 8PA3 in alcoholic liver disease.”

Source: Alcohol​Volume 42, Issue 8, Pages 675-682“Probiotics restore bowel flora and improve liver enzymes in human alcohol-induced liver injury: a pilot study”​Authors: I.A. Kirpich, N.V. Solovieva, S.N. Leikhter, N.A. Shidakova, O.V. Lebedeva, P.I. Sidorov, T.A. Bazhukova, A.G. Soloviev, S.S. Barve, C.J. McClain, M. Cave

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