Probiotics and Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a Brief Overview


Probiotics are microorganisms which supplement natural bacteria in the gut and help in balancing of intestinal flora. World Health Organization has also defined probiotics as live microorganisms which offer health benefits to users.

A common use of probiotics is in the treatment of gastrointestinal ailments as inflammatory bowel diseases and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a condition which is usually poorly understood and the treatment options are little. Probiotics are useful in the treatment of symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Many research studies have been done in judging the role of probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome. Research has shown that Bifidobacterium infantis is effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome. Bifidobacterium infantis is known to reduce the pain in the abdomen, bloating and difficulty in bowel movements. It is available in pure form and is known by the name of Align. Probiotics can be taken safely as it considered as a food by Food and Drug Administration.

Health benefits of Probiotics

Probiotics have numerous health benefits for any individual. They generally help the friendly bacteria in the human digestive system and are thus known to aid the process of digestion. The role of probiotics in aiding and healing conditions related to diarrhea is also well documented. They are also known to keep the heart of a person healthy and play a vital role in maintaining the mental balance of a person.

Probiotics have been appreciated in particular for reducing the severity of allergies and are known to treat conditions related to eczema in particular.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

It is a condition which causes discomfort in the belly and causes trouble in bowel movements. It is not life-threatening but can result in weakness in a person and will certainly affect the daily life of a person. Typical symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include diarrhea, constipation, gas and bloating, Irritable bowel syndrome can be triggered by multiple factors including consumption of certain foods and medicines. However, certain lifestyle changes are required and in the past few years, the role of probiotics as a cure has emerged. Increasing number of people are opting for use of probiotics as a cure for conditions related to irritable bowel syndrome.

Recent studies linking Probiotics with Irritable Bowel Syndrome

There have been three probiotics and IBS studies which have looked into the role played by Lactobacillus plantarum in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. In these studies, 112 patients were involved. However, all of these studies did not cover all the aspects of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, yet were able to clear the ideas related to the role of probiotics with irritable bowel syndrome. The studies showed that symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome improved by taking products with this probiotic. A painful condition associated with irritable bowel syndrome and gas related complications also improved. However, the probiotics covered under this study were not able to improve constipation related problems in this case.

In another probiotics and IBS study, role of Lactobacillus acidophilus in dealing with irritable bowel syndrome was researched. It was found that by using this probiotic 40 patients showed improvement in straining and pain but no such change was noticed when it came to frequency of bowel movement.

A different strain of Lactobacillus acidophilus when used with 18 patients gave slightly different results and it was found that improvement was noticed after consumption of the probiotic for 6 weeks.

Similarly, two more studies were done which discussed the role of probiotics and IBS. In these studies, Lactobacillus acidophilus was used among 40 patients. The probiotic was mixed with some other counterparts and it was found that conditions related to pain and gas were improved in the patients but no such improvement was noticed in other patients. In another study Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Bafidobacterium longum were used. It was found that after consumption of this probiotic, irritable bowel syndrome symptoms improved and in particular symptoms as pain and gas got better.

A combination of probiotics including two strains of Lactobacillus rhamnosis and Propionibacterium freudenreichi and a strain of bifidobacterium were used in 172 patients. Improvement in irritable bowel syndrome symptoms including pain was noted significantly. However, there was no change in symptoms as diarrhea and constipation.

There were two more studies which looked into the impact of Bifidobacterium infantis in 437 patients. These studies also showed improvement in the condition of patients, particularly in reference to symptoms of pain and diarrhea.

It is therefore clear from the above results that the influence of probiotics, when used for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, is mixed. Probiotics also consist of a different strain of bacteria and each of these has its own individual influence. It is, therefore, the precise reason that some probiotics have a fairly good impact on a symptom and fair badly when it comes to curing some other symptom of irritable bowel syndrome.

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