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IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the Western world, yet its cause remains unclear and consistently effective treatments are still being sought. A recent study shed a little more light on the mysteries of IBS, finding that a probiotic containing strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacter effectively reduced abdominal bloating and distension in people with the condition.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, included 60 adults with IBS. Only people with loose stools and diarrhea, not constipation, were chosen for the study. After monitoring their baseline symptoms for two weeks, they were assigned to take either a probiotic supplement or a placebo twice daily for eight weeks. The supplement provided 100 billion CFU (colony-forming units) of a combination of Lactobacillus acidophilus, strain NCFM, and Bifidobacter animalis, subspecies lactis Bi-07.
The findings were as follows:
“Our findings suggest that the combination of probiotic bacteria used in this study may be helpful in alleviating symptoms of bloating in patients with [IBS],” the study’s authors said, adding, “In view of the high prevalence of bloating symptoms in patients with [IBS], their overall impact of patients’ health and well-being, and the lack of effective treatment, this probiotic combination may be an important and useful addition to the management of patients with these symptoms.”
In a healthy gut environment, beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacter species establish colonies that thrive, and a lack of such thriving colonies appears to be a contributing factor in IBS. Since the improvements seen in this study were lost after the end of treatment, it further appears that a problem in the gut environment might be to blame.
Below are some strategies to promote thriving colonies of healthy gut bacteria or otherwise improve the symptoms of IBS:
(J Clin Gastroeneterol 2011; online publication)