IBS is a prevalent gut problem, affecting 25-45 million people in the US. And probiotics are thought of as the most effective natural supplement to improve gut health.
But are probiotics actually effective or even safe for IBS?
In most cases, probiotics are safe for IBS patients and offer promising results like relief from discomfort, improved stool frequency, and lesser recurrence.
However, for some IBS types, using probiotics can prove counterproductive.
To find out the underlying reason, continue reading because I have listed how probiotics help you get rid of IBS symptoms and what goes wrong when they don’t.
- In most cases, probiotics are beneficial in treating IBS and relieving symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and flatulence.
- When triggered by SIBO or histamines, bowel irregularities may worsen when you try to treat them with probiotics.
- Strains from Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces are effective for IBS flare-ups.
Do Probiotics Irritate IBS?
If you have excessive microbial outgrowth in your gut or have low histamine tolerance, chances are, taking probiotics would irritate IBS.
Several factors can make you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, including genetics, disease, stress, hypersensitivities, dysbiosis due to drugs and food poisoning, gut infections, and small intestinal bacterial outgrowth (SIBO).
Probiotics can provide relief in most of these cases. However, SIBO and histamine-associated IBS, may prove a wrong choice and even aggravate the condition.
Should I Take Probiotics If I Have IBS?
If you have IBS, the compatibility of probiotics with your gut depends upon various factors, including your tolerance to probiotic secretions and the microbial population present in your intestine.
Usually, they work great for soothing the inflamed intestinal tract and relieving bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence.
For instance, this meta-analysis covering results from 1793 IBS patients concludes that probiotics are an effective treatment option because they reduce pain and symptoms’ severity.
However, in the following two conditions, taking probiotics for IBS can be unsafe;
For SIBO-associated IBS, Friendly Bacteria Aren’t That Friendly
When bowel movement is disturbed due to bacterial outgrowth in the intestines, taking more bacteria through supplements may do more harm than good in the following ways;
- The gut lining is overwhelmed by excessive colonization of bacteria, and motility is either reduced or increased too much, causing IBS constipation or diarrhea.
- Large microbial populations quickly break down bile salts (the compound necessary for fat digestion), leading to fatty acid indigestion and diarrhea.
- Another way probiotics can aggravate SIBO-IBS is due to the bacteria producing hydrogen or methane gas which accumulates in the gut, causing bloating and distension.
However, as probiotics can fight and kill harmful microbes, a mild-intensity probiotic supplement with a small CFU number can probably help reduce dysbiosis and alleviate SIBO symptoms.
The precise connection of probiotics with SIBO is yet uncertain, and different clinical studies have presented results confirming both of the effects mentioned above.
So, the best way out is to consult your physician before you add a new supplement to your routine.
Probiotics Can Aggravate Histamine-associated IBS
Another way probiotics may irritate the GI lining and make you suffer from diarrhea, pain, and bloating is histamine sensitivity.
Both pathogenic and probiotic (especially Lactobacillus strains bacteria) produce histamines. These amines can irritate the gut lining, negatively affecting motility and bowel excretion.
As histamine-intolerant people are more prone to such effects, probiotic supplementation can make them suffer from IBS-style diarrhea and pain.
Are Probiotics Good For IBS Flare Up?
Yes, Probiotics not only help relieve unwanted symptoms but also help you eradicate the root cause, lowering the chances of recurrence.
Probiotics Upregulate Bowel Movements
Probiotics can relieve diarrhea or constipation caused by IBS by soothing the gut walls and improving intestinal motility.
In diarrhea, the intestinal muscles are hyper-reactive and pass the food mixture out without absorbing nutrients and water. Strains like Bacillus coagulans and L. rhmanosus decrease motility rate in such cases, reducing stool frequency and pain.
Conversely, when the motility rate becomes slower, the feces accumulate in the intestines, causing constipation.
Several probiotics like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium members speed up muscle contractions, making you easily pass out stools.
Probiotics Prevent Pathogenic Growth
Taking probiotics would help you maintain a good number of good bacteria in your gut.
These microbes protect the intestinal walls from pathogens in two ways;
Firstly, friendly bacteria line up and make colonies on the lining, leaving less space for the harmful species.
They also compete with them for food and metabolites.
If your gut microbiome has more friendly bacteria, the pathogens lose and starve to death. Otherwise, they thrive, causing infections and adversities like IBS flare-ups.
Another way probiotics fight harmful agents is by producing compounds that kill the attacker or trigger the immune system to do so.
Probiotics Help The Gut Lining Heal up
Probiotics not only protect the gut from harmful microbes and toxins, but they also help inflamed or wounded walls heal up.
Their anti-inflammatory secretions reduce the severity of infections and help gut muscles recover sooner.
Probiotics Reduce Gas Formation And Bloating
When the pathogenic population decreases, and digestion is improved, gas formation in the intestines is reduced.
In this way, gas-related side effects like flatulence, bloating, and burping are also gone, as reported by this research on 76 persons over 6 weeks.
Probiotics Lower The Stress Levels
On one side, probiotics help reduce the IBS symptoms; on the other, it also caters to underlying reasons like stress and lowered immunity.
Probiotics increase the production of serotonin and lower stress level. In turn, better stress management results in lesser IBS flare-ups and reduced intensity.
Probiotics Enhance Immune Functions
Gut disorders like IBS and SIBO can weaken your immune system significantly, making you more prone to other diseases.
Probiotics relieve IBS symptoms and boost your immunity;
- They protect the gut lining from bad bacteria and fungi. Sometimes they kill bad bacteria. Other times they prevent their growth and colonization.
- Their cytokine products strengthen the immune system by helping them recognize and capture invaders.
- Probiotics can also degrade certain toxins, reducing the effects of food poisoning.
- Last but not least, probiotics produce vitamins required in various immune responses.
With a strengthened immune system, you would be more resistant to food poisons and allergens, and ultimately IBS recurrence would be reduced.
Probiotic Strains That Help With IBS
According to research, strains from 4 microbial families are the most beneficial against IBS;
- L. rhanmanosus GG; LGG protects the gut against the harmful effects of germs and drugs and helps the intestinal lining heal up.
World Journal of Gastroenterology states that the anti-inflammatory activities of the LGG strain can effectively cure IBS symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain.
- L. plantarum, this lactic acid bacterium, can help you eliminate IBS discomforts like bloating, pain, and constipation.
In French research, 78% of the participants reported relief in bloating and pain severity using an L. plantarum supplement.
- L. acidophilus; this bacteria is known for improving stool frequency and reducing abdominal pain.
- B. breve: This bacterium relaxes colon muscles and helps them excrete feces easily. Owing to these tension-releasing properties, it effectively treats constipation and pain caused by IBS.
- B. infantis; it protects intestinal walls from IBS-triggering agents like drugs and allergens. Due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties, it is one of the most common probiotic recommendations for relieving IBS symptoms.
- B. coagulans; This strain is very effective for diarrheal IBS. A sit soothes the gut walls with its anti-inflammatory secretions, the muscles are relaxed, and bowel movements regularize gradually.
- B. subtilis: It improves gas tolerance and flatulence scores.
- Saccharomyces boulardii; This fungal strain kills pathogenic bacteria and effectively cures drug-induced infections.
Best Probiotic Supplements for IBS
1. Yourbiology Gut+ – Best Probiotic For IBS and Weight Loss
It has 4 bacterial strains to protect the gut from IBS and improve metabolic rate to support your weight loss plans;
- Lactobacillus (L. acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. paracasei)
- Bifidobacterium lactis
2. Culturelle Daily Digestive– Best For IBS Diarrhea
Culturelle Daily Digestive can prove to be your best friend against IBS. It is a single-strain supplement containing the “just right” amount of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG).
It delivers 10 billion CFUs in each capsule, making the dose potent enough to affect the ut microbiome but not too strong to worsen SIBO-associated IBS.
3. Probulin Colon Support– Best For IBS And Anxiety
It includes 20 billion CFUs of probiotic strains from 3 microbial families
- Lactobacillus (L. plantarum, L. casei, L. acidophilus, L. rhmnosus, L. bulgaricus, L. helveticus)
- Bifidobacterium (B. breve, B. lactis, B. longum, B. bifidum, B. infantis)
- Streptococcus thermophilus
This multi-strain composition and moderate CFU count make it a suitable choice for anyone seeking a supplement to cure gut issues and anxiety.
Can prebiotics make IBS worse?
Probiotics may worsen IBS if it is caused by bacterial outgrowth in the gut or histamine hypersensitivity, as discussed above.
Can probiotics cause IBS flare-ups?
Probiotics are mostly safe but may cause IBS to flare up in histamine-sensitive persons or those having SIBO.