FOUND: The Magic Bullet for Treating IBS
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects 55 million Americans, mostly women. The most common symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and/or abdominal cramps—so it’s no wonder that IBS sufferers often have to make drastic changes to their lifestyles to prepare for any unforeseen and embarrassing “attacks.” But new research is showing promise in a multi-species formula of friendly bacteria.
IBS is typically treated with dietary changes, as well as a slew of prescription or over-the-counter medications, including anti-diarrheals, bile acid binding agents, stool softeners, laxatives, antispasmodics, and even antidepressants. As you can imagine, these drug combinations can have a long list of unsavory side effects. And even more disturbing, they don’t address the root of the problem—just the acute symptoms.
As we have previously reported, research has shown that something as simple as probiotics can have a real lasting effect on IBS. These beneficial bugs don’t just alleviate the symptoms, but balance the microbial environment in the intestines to make the digestive disturbances associated with IBS less likely to happen in the first place.
One recent study divided 49 IBS patients into two groups. The first group (25 participants) received a multi-species probiotic formula (a mixture of various bacterial strains, a few of which included Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus) twice a day for four weeks. The remaining 24 patients took a placebo on the same schedule.
After the four weeks, the patients on the probiotics experienced substantial symptom relief—68 percent, versus 37.5 percent in the placebo group. The treatment group also saw improvement in abdominal pain, discomfort and bloating. Moreover, the probiotics led to positive changes in the balance and composition of intestinal bacteria.
Another study of 60 IBS patients showed similar results. These study participants were randomly assigned to receive either a probiotic preparation or a placebo for four weeks. The participants who took the probiotics showed a significantly greater improvement in symptom severity scoring, pain, discomfort and abdominal distention. Analysis of stool samples revealed that the patients—particularly those with diarrhea-predominant IBS—had low levels of certain types of beneficial bacteria. This means adding those bacteria back into the system could really help decrease the risk of IBS-induced diarrhea.
Boost Your Friendly Bugs
Because beneficial bacteria are essential to the healthy functioning of digestive (and immune) systems, just about everyone can and should take a probiotic supplement daily. And if you have digestive ailments like IBS, probiotics are an absolute must.
Look for a high-quality product that contains several different strains of friendly bacteria (including B. longum, B. bifidum and L. acidophilus), as well as prebiotics—plant-based compounds that feed probiotics and stimulate their growth.
Larissa Long has worked in the health care communications field for more than 13 years. She co-authored a self-care book titled Taking Care, has written countless tip sheets and e-letters on health topics, and contributed several articles to Natural Solutions magazine. She also served as managing editor of three alternative health and lifestyle newsletters — Dr. Susan Lark’s Women’s Wellness Today, Dr. David Williams’ Alternatives, and Janet Luhrs’ Simple Living.
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Article updated on: February 26th, 2014