IBS, as the name suggests, is an irritation of the stomach that causes painful cramps, diarrhoea and bloating. It’s said to be more common in men than women, but at least a third of the population is said to suffer from IBS especially as they get older. In the US alone, it’s estimated that 15-30 million people suffer from IBS.
What causes IBS? Your gut is exposed; you are not producing the right enzymes because the bacterial balance in your gut has been upset. As well, you are open to infection and irritation should any irritants come along. Even foods that someone who doesn’t suffer IBS can stand, like chilli, leaves discomfort because the stomach treats it as an irritant.
How do probiotics help?
Probiotics, or friendly bacteria, will re-introduce the fortification that your gut needs. The particular strain of bacteria called lactobacillus, contained in many probiotics is the one that specifically will help you fight IBS. Lactobacilli will line your gut so that you are able to produce the right enzymes to aid digestion and reduce irritation.
In a placebo controlled trial done in France of 200+ people, probiotics were found to significantly improve the symptoms of IBS in 80.61% of them. Doctors in Australia did similar studies, and the subjects reported immediate improvement.
In a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, probiotics were shown to restore the balance of flora in the gut so that IBS sufferers who were in the study were able to report almost immediate improvement.
Its not a one size fits all though. Different probiotics will work differently for different people and you may have to try several specific ones before you get the one that will help relieve your IBS symptoms. Probiotics come in different strains and the best thing to do is to know which strains work best in which part of your gut. This will make your search for a probiotic more specific.
As a general measure though, you should introduce probiotic laden foods into your diet. Drink lots of yoghurt. Take cheeses, fermented milk, add garlic to your food and look for fermented grains. Yoghurt is the most popularly known source of probiotics, and a daily dose of yoghurt should be able to help you get started. You can get a probiotic supplements as well, especially if your IBS symptoms are very serious. Make sure to read the labels so that you know what specific strain you are getting, although many supplements contain a combination of strains of bacteria.
- American Journal of Gastroenterology