A bacteria-based supplement may help reduce pain in people with endometriosis — although the data is limited, so more trials are needed, a new study suggests.
The study, “Beneficial Effects of Oral Lactobacillus on Pain Severity in Women Suffering from Endometriosis: A Pilot Placebo-Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial,” was published in the International Journal of Fertility & Sterility.
Bacteria are crucial to the normal functioning of the human body, and the idea behind probiotics is that consuming certain kinds of bacteria can help improve health. The new study focused on LactoFem, a commercial probiotic pill containing four types of bacteria from the genus lactobacillus. Bacteria in this group are known to play an important role in the health of the intestines and female reproductive system.
Of note, the study was funded by the Zist Takhmir Pharmaceutical Company, which sells LactoFem.
In the trial (IRCT20150819023684N5), 37 women with endometriosis were randomly assigned to treatment with either LactoFem or a placebo. Both groups were demographically similar, with similar medical histories (BMI, medication, infertility, etc.).
At the start of the study, as well as eight and 12 weeks into treatment, the participants were asked to rate dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse), and chronic pelvic pain on a scale from zero (no pain) to 10 (most severe pain), using the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS).
From the beginning of the study to eight weeks in, overall pain decreased in participants treated with LactoFem (change of 7.33) and with a placebo (4.11); the decrease among LactoFem-treated participants was significantly higher.
Four weeks later, average overall pain scores in both groups actually increased, but overall pain was still lower than it had been at the beginning of the study, and it tended to be lower among LactoFem-treated participants. However, the difference in overall pain between the groups from the start of the study to its end was not statistically significant.
More specific measurements of pain, such as severity of menstrual cramps and pain during sex, followed a similar trend, but no statistically significant differences were found between the groups. From the beginning of the study to eight weeks in, menstrual pain decreased in participants treated with LactoFem (6.53 to 3.07) and with a placebo (5.60 to 4.47); the decrease among LactoFem-treated participants was significantly higher.
“It seems that lactobacilli have some beneficial effects regarding endometriosis-associated pain,” the researchers said, noting that this research is preliminary, with more needing to be done.
“This trial was designed as a pilot study and we believe that in a larger study population, more robust results could be achieved,” they wrote.