Why Irritable Bowel Syndrome Does Not Spell Your Doom Thanks To Probiotics

stomachpainThe irritating nature of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS):

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are distressing to say the least. IBS is associated with gassiness, bloating, crampy pain and altered bowel habit. A normal stool is one that is not hard, has no blood and passes out without any cramps.

Terms such as functional bowel disease, spastic bowel, mucous colitis, and mucous are also sometimes used to describe the symptoms of IBS. However, each has its own clinical presentation when diagnosed. While colitis is the inflammation of colon (large intestine), the inflammation presented in IBS is just a symptom of this disease and not the reason behind it. Interestingly, IBS is categorized as a functional disorder as on examination as the clinician may not find any signs of “disease”. In severe cases, IBS can cause extreme morbidity restricting the movement of the patients. He may avoid social gathering, or even going to work. When the colon is infected by constant irritation as well as a weakened immune system, surgery is the only treatment option left for such patients. Management of IBS depends on diet control, managing stress and prescription medications.

The colon, rectum, anus and cecum form the large intestine, and the colon connects the small intestine to the rectum and anus, bringing everything together. It is responsible for the absorption of salt and water from food. It’s interesting to note that the colon begins to spasm even after mild stimulation, hence stress is considered as a strong predictor of IBS. Some food such as chocolate, dairy products and alcohol also trigger spasms. In women, the symptoms of IBS are prominent during menstruation.

Managing IBS:

Treatment modalities of IBS include the combination of diet and prescription medications. If IBS is diagnosed at an early stage and is mild, one must watch the calorie intake and avoid foods such that cause IBS such as dairy products, alcohol and coffee. In moderate to severe cases, patients may be prescribed anti-diarrhea prescription medications. Senna, magnesium and alpha-glalactosidase also alleviate the symptoms of IBS bringing relief to the patient. In severe cases of IBS, surgery is the only option, though invasive can work wonders. The impact of stress on the pathogenesis of IBS cannot be ruled out. the mantra of fighting IBS-“Beat the stress before it impacts your colon”.

The Many Roles of Probiotics:

Increase in the number of the pathogens (bad bacteria) in the gut cause IBS. Thus, there is an imbalance between good and bad bacteria. Probiotics (good bacteria) is useful treatment options in such patients. They follow multiple mechanisms to push the bad bacteria out of the system such as producing indigenous antibiotics that kills the pathogens. Upon stimulation of the probiotics, the body responds by producing more antibodies. These antibodies attack the pathogens; eventually killing them. The immune system of the host is also regulated upon exposure to probiotics. According to a study published in Rev Esp Enferm Dig.(2013), the authors acknowledged the impact of probiotics in modulating the immune response. These good-bacteria also lower the pH of the system, thereby stabilizing the environment of GIT. Probiotics also line the gastrointestinal tract (acting as a physical barrier) preventing the toxins released by the pathogens to cross the gut and entering into the body.

How Probiotics Bring Relief To The Many Symptoms Of IBS:

Here, we discuss the distressing symptoms of IBS and how probiotics heals such patients:

1. Enzymatic insufficiency: In IBS, there is a lack of digestive enzymes in the body that causes indigestion of the food in the gut. High doses of probiotics can help provide the necessary enzymes essential for digestion.

2. Gas in IBS: Gas is a common complaint of patients with IBS. Probiotics have some of the enzymes that help digest the complex sugars found in foods such as beans. Enzymes of the body are unable to digest these sugars, however the bad-bacteria devour it and produce gas. This causes extreme pain which can be relieved by the use of high doses of probiotics.

3. Flatulence: The probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum at the dose of 40 billion has shown to successfully decrease both the pain and flatulence in patients with IBS.

4. Inflammation: A common symptom in IBS is inflammation. It has been seen that probiotics stimulates the body to make antibodies. It is these antibodies that help to combat the menace of inflammation in patients with IBS.

According to a recent study published in Curr Gastroenterol Rep. (2013) it was suggested that the altered gut microbiota causes IBS and probiotics and non-absorbable antibiotics can produce relief in the patients with IBS.

Summing up, using probiotics for the management of IBS appears to be a promising approach. It has shown its worth in alleviating most of the symptoms associated with the syndrome.


1. Ortiz-Lucas M, Tobías A, Saz P, Sebastián JJ. Effect of probiotic species on irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: A bring up to date meta-analysis. Rev Esp Enferm Dig. 2013 Jan;105(1):19-36.
2. Ohman L, Simrén M. Intestinal microbiota and its role in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2013 May;15(5):323.
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