We've asked some of our supporters to try out probiotics and keep a diary for us. Amber has been trialling Symprove. She's currently at week 4 of her 12 weeks taking the product. Here is her diary so far...
May 5, 2016 – Day 0
To start, I must admit I am currently a little sceptical about the benefits of starting a probiotic. Having always classed them as a little bit of a ‘complementary therapy’, I am questioning whether there will be any benefits of taking probiotics and whether, in reality, they are a waste of money. I am however going into this trial with an open mind, surely anything that could possible reduce my disease symptoms is worth a go…?
My health background is slightly complicated. Since being diagnosed in 2012 with severe Crohn’s disease I have struggled with many a flare up and drug allergies to pretty much everything. At the moment I have currently failed all of the standard medication based therapies, and am therefore stuck on steroids for the foreseeable future. My current disease symptoms include; severe abdominal pain - especially after eating, abdominal bloating, general fatigue, nausea, joint pain mainly in my smaller joints, and far too many trips to the bathroom than is comfortable. Emotionally I feel I deal quite well with living with this disease, of course I’ve had my times of crying on my cold tiled bathroom floor, however I have great support from my partner, family and friends. This disease does wear me down though, it’s tiring and sucks all life and personality from a normally happy person. So the big question is whether taking a probiotic will help at all, will my symptoms reduce, will I feel better physically or emotionally? Time will tell. I have had a good look at the Symprove website but will reserve judgement on their claims and benefits until I start taking the probiotic. For now I am keeping my fingers crossed for good results and hoping that taking part in this trial will help others in their decision on whether to start a probiotic themselves.
May 12, 2016 – Week 1
I have taken Symprove for just under a week now. In terms of taking the probiotic it is quite simple. When I get up I go straight to kitchen and measure out my dose of probiotic, there is a little measuring cup that comes inside the package to measure out the correct amount, very handy! I normally pour the dose into a standard glass so it is easier to swallow. Personally I don’t find the taste very appealing, it is described as mango and passionfruit, but the taste is quite strange to me. Typically I suffer from nausea in the mornings, which doesn’t help, hence I take the probiotic like a shot every morning. For those without nausea problems I would imagine taking it would be fine, although you probably aren’t going to sip it like a fine wine.
At the moment I can’t say I have noticed any health benefits, however it is still early days. The included leaflet does describe how improvement ‘doesn’t happen overnight’ and that the process ‘takes time and commitment’, therefore I am still reserving judgement. There was one worrying point I took from reading the included information, it suggested that some people find their symptoms actually get worse until ‘the body adjusts to the new bacteria’. Personally I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary, my symptoms are still the same, but it is probably worth noting for others who are considering starting this probiotic that some problems are a possibility.
For those who are tech savvy there is an accompanying mobile phone app for this particular probiotic. So far I haven’t used it, but it may be of use to some people considering Symprove.
In conclusion, at the end of week one I have very little to report. There are still 11 weeks to go though so I need to be patient and wait to see if there will be any symptom improvement, hopefully there will be!
May 19, 2016 – Week 2
I am now two weeks into my trial of Symprove probiotic. Unfortunately I am yet to see any improvement in my symptoms, although this isn’t surprising as the benefits are not normally reported until further into the 12 week program. I have taken the probiotic regularly and am starting to get used to the taste (mango and passionfruit), although I may be put off mango sorbet for a while.
I have had a good look at Symprove online and the cost is quite high for this product. I’m sure many people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) would agree that we already have to spend a lot of money on our health, whether through prescription charges, alternative therapies or just extra underwear! Therefore spending another large amount on a probiotic may be too much for some. Being a student myself I personally would find it difficult to budget for this probiotic. Although it is hard not to question whether you can really put a price on better health….
In conclusion this week, well, wasn’t much different to last week. Still waiting in hope!
May 26, 2016 – Week 3
It is week three of my probiotic trial and I finally have something to report! After taking the probiotic religiously this week I have noticed that my stomach has been a lot less bloated than usual. Bearing in mind that after I eat a full dinner in the evening I can go from flat stomached to looking several months pregnant within the time frame of eating a vegetable lasagne, this is actually quite good for me. My mind tells me this could just be a coincidence but I’m hoping that the probiotic is actually doing something good to my insides.
This week I went away to see friends a seven hour train journey away. I did however not even think about the fact I needed to keep my already opened bottle of probiotic refrigerated, the hot train probably wouldn’t have done the product any good. Luckily I had a bottle un-opened to take with me, however if someone was to be travelling around for work it is worth considering the large bottle size of this product and the need for it to be refrigerated once opened could be a problem.
June 2, 2016 - Week 4
This week hasn’t been particularly great Crohn’s wise. My nausea in the mornings is back with vengeance and has made taking Symprove a lot more difficult. I have started taking the probiotic later in the day, once my anti-sickness tablets kick in, which is not the recommended way to take the product (normally at start of day on empty stomach). I haven’t noticed any difference from taking it later in the day, although I would guess the effectiveness of the bacteria in it could be compromised from me not taking it on an empty stomach.
No other symptom improvements to report, sadly. Still waiting…
June 9, 2016 - Week 5
This week I ordered my next batch (8 weeks) of Symprove. I spoke to a very nice man over the phone who was interested, not only in my order, but also how I was getting on. It was nice to speak to someone who seemed to genuinely care about the customer. This time I ordered a different flavour of Symprove, original flavour. The guy on the phone described it as a very “distinctive” flavour, which I feel is a little worrying, but I thought I’d be daring! The order arrived next day so I’d definitely give them a 10/10 for customer service.
Once again, in terms of symptom improvement, I have very little to report. However I have had the chance to talk to several other people who have tried the Symprove product and I am once again assured that I need to wait and see. So wait and see I will!
June 16, 2016 - Week 6
I have now taken Symprove for six weeks. This week I tried the ‘original’ flavour Symprove. The taste is to my palette quite malty/yeasty, almost like a beer type flavour, but not beer flavoured enough to make it pleasant to drink. Personally I think the mango and passionfruit flavour is preferable, but each to their own!
I am starting to feel a little despondent; unfortunately I am yet to feel any benefits to the extent that I was hoping for. I have seen some minor improvements, less bloating and less sickness, but these symptoms have been coming and going, therefore I am unsure as to whether it is the Symprove helping or just my Crohn’s being undecided as usual. I am only half way through the 12 week course, improvement is seen quicker in some than others…
June 23, 2016 - Week 7
Week 7 has been pretty similar to last week. Unfortunately I have not seen any drastic improvement. I did forget to take the probiotic a couple of days this week though so I am unsure of whether that will have had any influence on the results. I still have several weeks to go of taking this probiotic so I shall try keep myself a little more organised with taking it and hope for the best.
June 30, 2016 - Week 8
This week has been a little bit difficult in terms of taking my probiotic due to my upcoming colonoscopy tomorrow. Unfortunately the probiotic does not count as a clear fluid and therefore I have been unable to take it for a couple of days this week while I have been fasting and prepping before the dreaded day tomorrow. Just can’t wait to start eating again, the fasting is most definitely the worst bit of the colonoscopy procedure for me.
I do however have one possible probiotic benefit to repot. Since I can remember I have always found it difficult to eat breakfast, the sickness, coupled with the dread of starting my stomach pain and bloating so early in the day, has always put me off eating in the mornings. However one day this week, in my desire to fill up before fasting, I actually had breakfast and experienced very little bloating compared to usual. This is a big positive for me, as bloating really does make me feel uncomfortable. I am now wondering whether I can attribute this lack of bloating to the probiotic or not, would be nice to think it was having some effect.
July 7, 2016 - Week 9
I am now fully recovered from the dreaded colonoscopy last week and back to taking my probiotic every day. This week has been as pretty usual in terms of all the horrible Crohn’s disease symptoms, however I have seen some improvement in one particular area.
Last week I noticed that my levels of bloating and the resulting uncomfortable feeling had started to lessen after eating food. This is a big thing for me. I hate feeling bloated, it makes me feel sore and normally results in me laying on my bed like a beached whale - not an attractive pose after dinner out with my boyfriend! I am starting to feel more comfortable with eating food and that is a great improvement for me. This improvement is correlated with taking the probiotic, however I am unsure of whether I can prove this as a definite cause and effect.
July 14, 2016 - Week 10
I am now on week 10 of my probiotic trial, with only two weeks to go. This week has been a rather bad week for me in terms of symptoms and due to this I have found taking the probiotic difficult. Nausea has always been a big problem for me, and due to the ‘distinct’ taste of the probiotic product, taking it has just been impossible this week. I am wondering whether a probiotic that is taken in pill form would be a better solution to this problem for me…
July 21, 2016 - Week 11
I have been able to take the probiotic with a bit more consistency this week. However I have very little changes to report and unfortunately my previous improvements with bloating seem to have relapsed. I am beginning to feel that my condition is maybe a little too inconsistent to give a full and true representation of the possible benefits or lack of benefits that taking a probiotic could bring. I will wait till the next and final week to give a full judgement on my experience.
July 28, 2016 - Week 12
This has been my final week of taking the Symprove probiotic. Over the past 12 weeks of taking it I have seen some ups and downs, but unfortunately very little meaningful improvement. I do feel a little disappointed in the lack of positive results after taking this probiotic, however I am glad that I had the opportunity to try something new and to explore other ways of managing my Crohn’s disease other than conventional therapies.
Although I feel that at the moment probiotics are not appropriate for the severity of my illness, this does not mean that they won’t work for other people. Anecdotal evidence suggests that experiences are mixed, with some, like me, showing very little change, compared to others crediting them with their own recovery. Research into the effects of probiotics on colitis is still very limited, with only a few small studies mainly carried out by the probiotic companies themselves. I feel this would be a very interesting area that should be looked in to. The possibility of improving someone’s disease symptoms by taking a probiotic, that has very little or no side effects could be a very attractive prospect to a lot of people.
Personally I believe that anything that could possibly provide some symptom improvement is worth a try. I have had very little luck with conventional drug therapies and therefore feel that anything that could possibly help, without harming my health, is worth a go. I am glad that I tried this probiotic and although this did not work for me, this patient experience trial has opened my eyes to the possibility that I may be able to improve my Crohn’s disease symptoms with something other than conventional drug therapies.
For anyone considering trying a probiotic, I wish you the best of luck and I hope that one day we will all be symptom free!
*Amber was provided with a free 12 week course of Symprove by its makers in return for her honest opinion about the product.
You can buy Symprove probiotic here*
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