Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Probiotics
What is IBS?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is chronic condition that affects the colon (large intestine). It causes gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and/or constipation.
We don't know for certain what causes IBS. Some experts believe that a past gastrointestinal infection lead to oversensitivity of the colon and consequently IBS. Others look for hormonal and genetic causes.
Studies have shown, though, that many people with IBS have a disrupted gut flora – the balance of the so called ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the intestines. That is why many believe that changing the gut flora may help relieve the symptoms of IBS.
How Do Probiotics Work For IBS?
Probiotics are bacteria (and some type of yeasts) that have beneficial effect on the person's health. They help you balance the gut micro flora, support the immune system, and improve health in general.
Numerous studies were made with regards to probiotics and IBS and they have shown promising results. Many people in these studies reported significant relief from the symptoms of IBS.
However, there is one thing you should know. There are many different kinds of probiotic supplements available. Research has shown that some probiotics work surprisingly well for certain people with IBS, while there are other patients who don't experience any positive results.
That is why it is best if you try out several probiotic strains. Start with one supplement and keep a diary of your symptoms. If you don't see an improvement in several weeks, you might want to try another one. Throughout this process, consult with your doctor. If, at any time, you notice that your symptoms are starting to feel worse, immediately discontinue the use of probiotics.
Probiotics are not for anyone. They are not suited for people with compromised immune system, pre term infants, critically ill people, people with pancreatitis, and patients post cardiac surgery. In these people, probiotics may lead to severe infections - they are, after all, live bacteria and yeast.
How Should I take Probiotics?
Look for probiotic strains that were clinically tested for use in people with IBS. Some of the well known supplements for functional gastrointestinal conditions are Align or Vsl#3. You might want to read our article that discusses several types of probiotic supplements: Top Probiotic Supplements.
There is really no recommended dosage for probiotics. Most manufacturers list their own recommended dose on the label. It is best if you follow their recommendation.
The usual doses range between 1 billion and 50 billion probiotics per day. These doses generally don’t present a health risk; you might experience some mild gas or bloating in the beginning as the intestines start accommodating to new gut flora.
VSL#3 supplement, on the other hand, is categorized as ‘medical food’ and comes in much higher doses. That is why it is especially important to consult with your health care professional before taking VSL#3.
- Could probiotics help alleviate your functional gastrointestinal symptoms? http://www.iffgd.org/site/manage-your-health/diet-treatments/probiotics
- Understanding and treating an irritable bowel. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding_and_treating_an_irritable_bowel
- Irritable bowel syndrome. Mayo clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/basics/alternative-medicine/con-20024578
- Probiotic Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. George Aragon, MD, Deborah B. Graham, MD, Marie Borum, MD, EdD, MPH, and David B. Doman, MD. Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2010 Jan. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2886445/
- Effect of Multispecies Probiotics on Irritable Bowel Syndrome. A Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial. Jun Sik Yoon, Won Sohn, Oh Young Lee, Sang Pyo Lee, Kang Nyeong Lee, Dae Won Jun, Hang Lak Lee, Byung Chul Yoon, Ho Soon Choi, Won-Seok Chung, Jae-Gu Seo. 2014. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/818812
- The Utility of Probiotics in the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review.Darren M Brenner, Matthew J Moeller, William D Chey and Philip S Schoenfeld. American Journal of Gastroenterology. http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/v104/n4/fig_tab/ajg200925t2.html