As you explore different options for alleviating IBS symptoms and you get deeper into the Googling black hole, you can find all kinds of information about what’s helpful and what’s not for IBS relief. The trouble is figuring out whether that information is useful or not. There’s been a lot of buzz around the possible benefits of probiotics for IBS, but how much of it is backed by scientific research?
What are these mythical probiotics we hear so much about anyway?
They’re basically the good bacteria that reside in your gut and keeps your gut flora balanced and your digestive system moving. Probiotics are live microorganisms that help digest foods, destroy disease-causing cells, and/or produce vitamins. They can either be taken as a supplement or found naturally in fermented foods such as kimchi and yogurt.
The jury’s still out on whether or not probiotics are helpful for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but a lot of the research did have one thing in common: At the very least, probiotics aren’t harmful! Even if there isn’t enough evidence in the medical community regarding the benefits of probiotics for IBS, many healthcare professionals are willing to give it a try.
Because there are so many varieties of probiotics (such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) and several types of IBS, the answer could be finding the right combination of both.
Again, the studies vary. One study that was conducted recently found that Bifidobacterium Infantis provided relief for IBS patients. The probiotic seemed to reduce common IBS symptoms such as bloating and gas by helping regulate gut flora.
So, we know about pro-… but what about pre- biotics?
Prebiotics, or compounds in food that induce the growth or activity of beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi, have also been researched with regards to their interaction with IBS. Prebiotics are naturally found in many foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and oatmeal.
The presence of prebiotics in the gut can encourage microorganisms to grow and become more active in your digestive system. As a result, the gut can improve its abilities to process hard-to-digest foods and absorb the nutrients that are important to gut and overall health.
Several studies have shown IBS symptom relief when prebiotics were present. Symptoms such as bloating, gas, and constipation seemed to be reduced. The only issue is, many people don’t seem to be maintaining the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their diets to keep up with the level of prebiotics needed to show any benefit.
In some cases, a mix of prebiotics and probiotics was what it took to relieve many sufferers’ IBS symptoms, and in others, it did nothing at all.
There you have it. So far, a lot of the evidence we have is wishy-washy, but more research is being conducted on the topic all the time.
Of course, we know something else that works very effectively to relieve IBS in many cases: the low FODMAP diet!
For more resources on the low FODMAP diet and information about IBS, head to Fody’s blog. We’re always updating our content and adding new and relevant information for IBS sufferers!