Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an extremely common condition impacting the large intestine. Irritable bowel syndrome affects between 25 and 45 million Americans, most of them are women.
Symptoms include everything from bloating and gas to abdominal pain and cramping. There are a number of different treatment options and medications available for people with IBS one of which is taking probiotics for countering IBS symptoms.
In this guide, we will include the pros and cons, as well as the best practices while taking probiotics for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Can Probiotics Help Reduce IBS Symptoms?
Probiotics help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut, including your intestines and stomach, when it has been disrupted by a treatment or illness.
This is why it is considered a good option for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There are a number of different ways that probiotics work. This includes:
- Regulating the responses of the immune system, both at the level of the bowel wall and the body as a whole.
- Acting as antibiotics against bacteria.
- Strengthening the tissue of the bowel wall.
- Preventing harmful organisms from reaching the surface of the gastrointestinal tract through lining it.
- Lowering the gut’s sensitivity to gas build-up and further lowering the gas produced by balancing the gut flora
- Slowing down bowel movements
- Helping to fight inflammation
- Enhancing the barrier functions in the immune system
- Inhibiting the growth of any bacteria that causes disease
Nevertheless, it is critical to be aware of the fact that not all probiotics are the same. There are many different types and strains of yeasts and bacteria and this will have an impact on the effectiveness of the probiotic in terms of IBS.
How To Choose A Probiotic That Is Best Suited for Your IBS Symptoms
The key here is to make sure you choose probiotics with care. Here are a few tips that you should always follow when you are making your selection:
- Stick with one type – Try one variety of probiotic before you move onto something else. You need to give it a go for a minimum of one month and monitor the impact it has on your symptoms. This is the only way you are going to be able to determine whether it is effective or not.
- Take the correct dose – You also need to make sure you take the dose that has been recommended by the manufacturer.
- Choose a probiotic in accordance with your symptoms – Select strains that will work for the sort of symptoms you experience.
- Select a probiotic that is evidence based – Finally, and most importantly, make sure you select a probiotic that has research supporting it.
You need to bear in mind that there are some supplements that can make your condition worse. You will be able to avoid these supplements by ensuring you read the ingredients list and do not opt for any probiotic that contains any sort of ingredients that are linked with irritating the gut.
For example, you should stay away from probiotics that include xylitol, sorbitol, fructose, lactose, inulin, and oats. If you find that your symptoms are triggered from any of the ingredients that have been mentioned, look for a probiotic that does not contain them.
Not all probiotics are the same when it comes to IBS
A word of caution when it comes to treating IBS with probiotics is that not all probiotics are the same. The word ‘probiotics’ covers a lot of different types and strains of yeasts and bacteria. Because of this, the health benefits are going to differ depending on the type and quality of probiotics that have been taken.
This is why you need to make sure you purchase probiotics with a great amount of care and consideration. Moreover, while it is clear to see that there is definitely a link between probiotics and assisting with IBS, there still needs to be more research conducted. We are sharing some of the past research studies on the impact of probiotics for patients with IBS symptoms for better understanding.
Research Studies Showcasing Impact of Probiotics for Various IBS Symptoms
Impact of Probiotics in Improving Overall IBS symptoms
The British Dietetic Association (BDA) carried out 29 different studies to understand if probiotics helped improve IBS symptoms. In 14 of these studies, there was a positive result for ten different types of probiotics.
In one study the bacteria probiotic L. plantarum 299v was used to treat 214 patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. After a month, 78 percent of the patients deemed the probiotic excellent or good in terms of improving their symptoms. It was especially beneficial for bloating and pain. Another study in Poland supported these findings.
Nevertheless, there were two other studies, albeit on a smaller scale, regarding L. plantarum 299v, and these studies did not find a positive impact.
Another study with promising results was carried out in Germany. This study was to do with Pro-Symbioflor, which is a two-strain probiotic liquid. In this study, 297 patients received treatment over a period of two months. It was reported that there was a 50 percent decrease in general symptoms, including stomach pain.
Another probiotic strain, known as Symprove, was tested in the UK. In the test, 186 patients were involved. They took this four-strain probiotic and it was deemed that symptom severity was reduced over a period of 12 weeks.
In addition to this, it has also been shown that Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 capsules are able to marginally lower problems with bowel habits, bloating, and pain in all subtypes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
As you can see, there are a number of positive results that are out there when it comes to the impact of probiotics on IBS. However, the studies do show some inconsistencies as well.
Moreover, for a lot of strains there have only been the one study. There is no denying that more research would certainly be beneficial. However, it is certainly promising overall.
Probiotics for Reducing IBS Abdominal pain symptoms
One of the main symptoms that people experience when it comes to IBS is abdominal pain. Most people tend to experience this in the whole abdomen or in the lower abdomen.
Once a bowel movement has passed, the pain tends to go away. There are seven different kinds of probiotics that have been linked with improving symptoms of abdominal pain. The strain L. plantarum was found to lower both the severity and the frequency of abdominal pain.
There was also a study conducted to assess the effectiveness of Lesaffre, which is the yeast S. cerevisiae. The study involved patients taking this probiotic for a period of eight weeks. Once the eight-week period concluded, 47 percent of participants in the placebo group and 63 percent of people in the test group reported significant reductions in pain.
Another study saw people drink a probiotic solution that consisted of L. casei, L. acidophilus, B. lactis, and B. bifidum. This was for a period of eight weeks as well. In the placebo group, pain was reduced by 38 percent. In the test group, pain was reduced by 64 percent.
Probiotics for Reducing IBS Constipation (IBS-C) Symptoms
IBS-C impacts almost 50 percent of people that have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
In one study, IBS -C patients were given one of two types of multi-strain probiotics. One contained L. plantarum, L. rhamnosus and L. lactis and the other contained L. acidophilus and L. reuteri. With both strains, patients noticed that their bowel movements were more frequent and there was an improvement with regards to consistency as well.
There has also been a study regarding Irritable Bowel Syndrome within children. This study involved using the probiotic B. lactis and prebiotic inulin. It was found that feelings of fullness, bloating, and constipation were all reduced.
Nevertheless, it does need to be noted that inulin can worsen symptoms within some patients experiencing IBS. Aside from this, there has been research that has shown that bloating symptoms and pain associated with constipation can be reduced with S. cerevisiae.
Probiotics & Its Impact in Treating IBS With Diarrhea (IBS-D) Symptoms
IBS-D is something that around 15 percent of people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome experience.
Bacillus coagulans is a type of probiotic that is known to assist with a number of different symptoms associated with IBS. This includes stool frequency, as well as diarrhea. There have been a number of small studies regarding this.
VSL#3, which is a multi-strain probiotic, was also tested in individuals experiencing Irritable Bowel Syndrome and it was found to reduce gas, as well as slowing down the bowels. There has also been an investigation into the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii. This noted that the probiotic can lower inflammation while improving bowel habits too.
There has also been a test into Duolac, which is another type of multi-strain probiotic. This involved an eight-week treatment period, with 50 patients involved. It was found that there was a general improvement in symptoms and that stool consistency improved as well.
Probiotics and Its Impact in Treating IBS Gas and Bloating Symptoms
There has also been some research into the impact of probiotics on symptoms associated with gas and bloating. Increased sensitivity and excess gas production can cause uncomfortable gas and bloating in IBS.
In a BDA review that was carried out in 2016, two studies had concluded that probiotics were helpful in the reduction of bloating. One study concluded that they helped to reduce gas. The strain L. plantarum was deemed effective in terms of lowering the severity and frequency of bloating symptoms.
There was another study whereby those involved drank a rose-hip drink that was mixed with an oatmeal soup, which had L. plantarum in it that fermented the soup. Those involved noted that there was a significant reduction in gas experienced.
Probiotics and Its Impact in Treating IBS Gas and Bloating Symptoms
There was also another important study that was carried out whereby patients were treated with a four-strain supplement over the course of a month. This strain contained S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, and B. lactis.
They had noticed that their abdominal bloating had reduced through doing this. Therefore, if bloating and gas are primary problems you experienced with regards to your Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you should certainly consider taking probiotics to help.
Are There Any Side Effects from Taking Probiotics for IBS Patients?
As is the case with any sort of supplement or anything being consumed, there is always the potential for side effects. When it comes to probiotics, possible harmful side effects include the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes from the probiotic microorganisms to other microorganisms in a person’s digestive tract.
Other potential side effects include production of harmful substances by the probiotic microorganisms, and infections. Take medical advice if necessary.
How Change in The Gut Flora Aggravates IBS Symptoms
The symptoms of IBS have been linked to specific changes in the gut flora. For instance, people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome have lower amounts of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in their guts, as well as having higher levels of harmful Clostridium, E.coli, and Streptococcus.
Furthermore, up to 84 percent of Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients experience the overgrowth of bacteria in their small intestines, which can cause a lot of common IBS symptoms.
Nevertheless, whether or not Irritable Bowel Syndrome is responsible for this change or a result of it is unknown. Moreover, there are certain medications that are used to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms that can damage the healthy bacteria that lives in the gut.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms can be influenced by changes in the gut flora through changing digestive mobility, lowering immune function, increasing sensitivity to gas in the intestine, and increasing inflammation some of which can be countered with probiotics.
It is important though to read the labels, look into the ingredients and probiotic strains used and then make a decision on the type of probiotic that is best suited to the IBS symptoms you experience.