Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that causes abdominal pain, constipation, bloating, gas, and diarrhea. It is a very common disease that affects up to 20% of people around the world. The cause of IBS remains unknown, although scientists believe it has to do with infections, bacterial overgrowth, and the connection between the brain and the gut.
The disease can take on one of four main types: IBS-D, IBS-C, IBS-M, and IBS-U. No matter what type of IBS you have, the treatment is usually the same. It involves medication, as well as lifestyle and dietary changes. The patients should also follow a low-FODMAP diet plan. And since there may be a link between IBS and the gut-brain connection, taking probiotics could also prove helpful.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living organisms – mostly bacteria and fungi – that have health benefits on the host when administered in small amounts. They achieve this by interacting with the bacteria and fungi that live in your gut and keeping their levels and their effects under control.
Extensive research shows that people with IBS have lower levels of the “good bacteria” in their gut. At the same time, this condition causes a spike in their levels of Clostridium, E. coli, and Streptococcus, three potentially very harmful bacteria. Moreover, some of the drugs IBS patients take might have a similar effect.
By helping to raise the levels of the “good bacteria,” probiotics might also help IBS patients regulate their levels of these dangerous bacteria.
What Are the Best Probiotics for IBS?
Not all probiotics will be able to help people with IBS. Over the years, numerous studies have looked into the effects of probiotics on the symptoms of IBS. Here we’ll take a closer look at the four best probiotics for IBS, according to research.
- Bifidobacterium infantis 35624
Bifidobacterium infantis (B. infantis) is a strain of bacteria that plays an important role in your digestive health. These bacteria naturally occur in your oral cavities, as well as your gastrointestinal tract. Several studies have shown that this probiotic can help relieve some symptoms of IBS. B. infantis can help relieve pain, reduce bloating, and improve bowel movement. It achieves its effect by altering your body’s immune response to harmful bacteria. Popular B. infantis supplements include Evivo and Align.
- Bifidobacterium bifidum MIMBb75
Bifidobacterium bifidum (B. bifidum) is another bacterial probiotic that has shown a lot of potential in the treatment of IBS. This strain of bacteria usually lives in your stomach and intestines. A 2011 study found that people who use it could experience a noticeable relief from IBS symptoms in a matter of weeks. These bacteria may also boost immunity, which is important for IBS patients. However, there are no commercial B. bifidum supplements available right now.
- Lactobacillus plantarum 299v
Lactobacillus plantarum (L. plantarum) is a subspecies of bacteria that lives in your colon tissue. First isolated more than 30 years ago, it has been the subject of numerous studies in relation to its effects on IBS. For example, the participants in a 2012 trial reported that this probiotic helped relieve the pain and bloating, two of the most unpleasant symptoms of IBS. Several other studies have produced similar results. L. plantarum is available in the supplement form from Jarrow Formulas.
- Saccharomyces boulardii
Unlike the other three probiotics in this list, Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii) is a type of yeast. In fact, it’s the only yeast deemed beneficial enough to act as a probiotic. It has shown great promise in the treatment of diarrhea, which is why it could be good for people with IBS-D. On top of that, it also helps improve bowel movements and decrease inflammation. There are many S. boulardii supplements to choose from. Keep in mind that it doesn’t colonize the gut, so you’ll have to keep taking it to feel the positive effects.
The Final Word
These are the four best probiotics for IBS that could help relieve some very unpleasant symptoms of the condition. Apart from B. bifidum, all are available in the form of a supplement. But before you start taking them, make sure to consult with your doctor. They will help you pick the best probiotic for your needs and inform you about any possible side effects.