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Can Probiotics Help Calm IBS?

Recent studies offer evidence that probiotics help calm IBS, also known as irritable bowel syndrome. Rebalancing the microbiota of the gut may do the trick.
Can Probiotics Help Calm IBS?
Woman hands on her stomach, probiotics food for gut health, having stomachache

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) has long mystified doctors. Gastroenterologists classified it for years as a “functional” gastrointestinal problem, by which they meant they could not find anything wrong with the digestive tract. Nonetheless, people with IBS suffer real pain, bloating, cramps and diarrhea or constipation. Recent research has shown that bacterial toxins may play an important role in the development of these symptoms. Some people have reported that eliminating certain foods from their diets can reduce symptoms. Others have found that probiotics help calm IBS.

Do Probiotics Help Calm IBS?

Q. For over 15 years, I suffered from IBS that caused gas attacks, flatulence and diarrhea. My doctor told me that there was nothing that I could do to stop these symptoms.

On my own, I decided to see if avoiding all dairy products would help. That did make a difference.

Then I had to take an antibiotic that gave me constant diarrhea. I decided to try taking a probiotic that offered over 30 billion live intestinal bacteria daily. Within two weeks, my diarrhea stopped. Now, four months later, I can eat anything, including dairy products, without diarrhea, gas or bloating.

Evidence That Probiotics Help Calm IBS:

A. Since irritable bowel symptoms appear to be linked to changes in gut microbiota, researchers have been considering how they could improve the balance of microbes (Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, online Nov. 27, 2019). In light of this, scientists analyzed nine placebo-controlled studies of probiotics for symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (World Journal of Gastroenterology, March 14, 2015)

They concluded:

“Probiotics reduce pain and symptom severity scores. The results demonstrate the beneficial effects of probiotics in IBS patients in comparison with placebo.”

While that study did not specify which probiotic species might be most useful, another study did. Indian investigators found that Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-3856 at a dose of 2 billion CFU twice a day for eight weeks reduced pain and improved stool consistency (International Journal of Colorectal Disease, Dec. 5, 2019). In summary, this randomized controlled trial offers very promising evidence that probiotics help calm IBS.

Are You Interested in Probiotics?

If you would like to purchase high-quality probiotic products, we recommend KayaBiotics.com. Before we agreed to have this company underwrite our radio show, which it does, we made sure that their products are excellent. They are made with completely organic ingredients and are under the watchful eye of German health regulators. In Germany, the government takes such responsibilities seriously. KayaBiotics chooses probiotic strains for their products based strictly on scientific data. Then it uses micro-encapsulation technology to make sure the bacteria make it into your intestinal tract where they can do the most good.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Canakis A et al, "Irritable bowel syndrome and gut microbiota." Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, online Nov. 27, 2019. DOI: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000523
  • Didari T et al, "Effectiveness of probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome: Updated systematic review with meta-analysis." World Journal of Gastroenterology, March 14, 2015. DOI: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i10.3072
  • Gayathri R et al, "Efficacy of Saccharomyces cerevisiae CNCM I-3856 as an add-on therapy for irritable bowel syndrome." International Journal of Colorectal Disease, Dec. 5, 2019. DOI: 10.1007/s00384-019-03462-4
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