Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is what “hypoglycemia” was in the 80s. The latest catch-all term for people who really don’t know what they have and their physicians can’t spend more than the allotted 10 minutes figuring it out. Bloating? Check. Abdominal discomfort? Check. You have IBS, here’s a prescription, come back in one month.
IBS affects the colon, the part of your digestive tract that stores your poop (as Dr. Oz so aptly calls it). And the symptoms are not unique to IBS alone: abdominal pain or discomfort, cramping, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation. One South Beach Living bar full of sugar alcohols and I’d qualify for IBS if I could even make it out of the house to see the physician.
The treatment options for IBS are limited (working with a clinician to help eliminate certain irritating foods can be very helpful) and therefore the lure of probiotics has many IBS sufferers running to the grocery store to buy products spiked with friendly bacteria. But do probiotics work? And do we need supplemental probiotics above and beyond what is normally found in our gut?
In a recent research review (where they read many clinical trials on probiotics and IBS symptoms), scientists at Northwestern University and the University of Michigan examined probiotics for the treatment of IBS. Out of 13 strains examined, Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 (marketed as Bifantis® by Proctor & Gamble) was the only one that significantly improved IBS symptoms. So, for all those IBS sufferers out there, look at the products you are choosing and make sure that they contain Bifantis or Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 and after trying it for a while if you feel no different, then discontinue using it. Sometimes supplements work well in some people but seemingly have no affect in others.
If you want to know more about IBS, check out a legit site such as NIH’s clearinghouse: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/ibs_ez/