Probiotics are good bacteria that help to move food through the gut; they can be used to help IBS, IBD, and other digestive conditions. Here I’ll explore which probiotics to use for IBS symptoms and how to create a healthy gut environment for the good bacteria to grow.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live cultures or strains of good bacteria similar to those found in your intestine.
Probiotics supplements therefore support the balance of bacteria in the gut which then, in turn, helps support the absorption of nutrients from our food. They can also be used to help treat some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) such as diarrhoea.1 There are many different types of probiotics that have different benefits, but most come from two groups – lactobacillus or bifidobacterium.
Lactobacillus is more commonly found in the small intestine. It is perhaps the most common probiotic and can also be found in fermented foods like yoghurt. Different strains of lactobacillus can work to ease diarrhoea and may help people who can’t digest lactose (the sugar in milk).
Bifidobacterium, is more commonly found in the large intestine and is also found in some dairy products. It is thought to help ease symptoms of IBS and other digestive conditions.
Can probiotics help IBS?
Probiotics are becoming an important part of gut health regimes as the gastrointestinal benefits are becoming better known. The increasing levels of research and clinical trials investigating the effects of probiotics on IBS symptoms suggest that probiotics may help manage some of the symptomsnof IBS.
However, IBS is most likely exacerbated by different factors in different people, which could be why the research results of using probiotics for IBS is somewhat mixed.
Although the exact ways probiotics help in the treatment of IBS are unknown, they are thought to play a role in balancing and altering the levels of bacteria that already live in our gut.2 The British Dietetic Association3 and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)4 recommend trying the same probiotic for a period of 4 weeks to see if it has any effect on symptoms. If not, they suggest switching a different strain of the bacteria to see if this causes an improvement.
Which probiotic should I use for IBS?
There are a number of different probiotics out there, therefore it can be confusing picking the right one to suit you. The probiotics brand Optibac have a great range of natural probiotics that have been clinically researched to help target a wide range of IBS symptoms:
1 - For alternating symptoms of IBS (IBS-A) try For every day
For every day can help with a range of IBS symptoms, including alternating constipation and diarrhoea. It may help to relieve some more general symptoms of IBS including abdominal cramps, distension, and chronic bloating. This formula contains two strains of probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 which have been clinically shown to help reduce bloating and abdominal distension.5
A healthy internal environment
Research is still being carried out on the use of probiotics as a treatment to help improve IBS symptoms. While the results of research are promising, experts are still befuddled as to how probiotics actually work to help IBS – but it seems the balance of bacteria in our gut is key!
2 - For diarrhoea (IBS-D) try Saccharomyces boulardii
Saccharomyces boulardii is a natural yeast, originally extracted from lychee fruit. It is the only yeast that has been formally recognised as a probiotic. In clinical research saccharomyces boulardii has been shown to help reduce antibiotic-associated diarrhoea (AAD), chronic diarrhoea, traveller’s diarrhoea, as well as IBS-D.6
3 - For constipation (IBS-C) try Bifidobacteria & fibre
Bifidobacteria and fibre have been shown to support general gut health, relieve constipation, and promote regular, well-formed bowel movements. This probiotic formula contains Bifidobacerium lactis BB-12 and is thought to be the most widely researched strain of Bifidobacteria. It is able to survive the high acidity of the stomach which means it reaches the gut alive. It is also naturally high in fibre because it contains the prebiotic Fructooligosaccharides.
4 - For bloating try One week flat
One week flat contains a probiotic strain called Lactococcus lactis Rosell-1058 which produces two specific enzymes that help with the digestion of starch and lactose. It also contains L. acidophilus Rosell-52 which can reduce the effects of stress on the digestive system.
Extra advice: prep your probiotic with a prebiotic?
Worried that your probiotic supplement isn’t working as well as it should? If we have probiotics to help balance our gut bacteria, then why do we need prebiotics? Prebiotics are a type of in-digestible plant fibre that lives inside the large intestine. Although the body does not digest this fibre, instead, having them present helps improve the internal environment of our gut and therefore stimulate the growth of our friendly bacteria (probiotics). In other words, prebiotics set out a nice, cosy spread to make our good bacteria feel at home!
Which prebiotic should I use?
I’d recommend Molkosan, a prebiotic made from organic whey and rich in L+ lactic acid to help support the survival of your good gut bacteria. Unfriendly bacteria can’t survive in a gut full of L+ lactic acid; therefore by also adding a prebiotic to your regime, this helps keep the acidity of your gut at the right level, allowing probiotics to grow sufficiently. Molkosan is approved for vegetarians and is free from fat, sugar, lactose, and gluten.