Here we go again, talking all about bacteria!
Are you interested in the bacteria that live in your gut?
We’ve been busy around here dishing up the latest on what you need to know about your gut, and if probiotics are helpful in the treatment of IBS. While some bacteria aren’t so great – I’m looking at you hospital superbugs! – others, such as probiotics, may prove to be helpful.
Recent research suggests that our bodies rely on the symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship that we have with the bacteria that lives in our body, and that they can play a role in treating a variety of conditions. Of course, those of particular interest to us here is the research being conducted on those with IBS.
For those of us who have restricted high FODMAP foods for a short or long time, there is evidence that shows the bacteria that live in our gut can change in quantity and proportion. So it’s important to consider the role of probiotics and healthy bacteria and how it helps.
We scoured the most up-to-date research on the use of probiotics in treating IBS, and the jury’s still out. Currently, there is only a small body evidence suggesting that probiotics are beneficial to those with IBS. So, if you choose to use probiotic supplements, make sure they are part of a comprehensive digestive health plan that you have created with a health care professional.
In this article, we are talking about probiotic supplements and are laying out some simple guidelines to help you choose the right supplement for your digestive health!
Probiotics for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
If you’ve decided you want to try adding a probiotic supplement to your IBS symptom management plan, it’s best to work directly with a doctor or dietitian who can help you make the right choice. Not all probiotics are beneficial for all people, and they way they are taken can also make a difference in terms of their effectiveness and benefit in potentially reducing symptoms. Everyone’s circumstances are different, and we would hate for you to spend your hard-earned money on a supplement that isn’t doing you any good. Probiotics really should be an individualized part of your symptom management plan and should not be treated as a one-size-fits all solution.
How to Pick a Probiotic Supplement
You’ll find about a million choices on the shelves of health food stores when it comes to probiotics. Here are a few general things to look out for on the label to help you make the most informed choice and provide some peace of mind that you are getting a quality, safe product:
- Serving size per capsule
- Guarantee of potency to expiration date
- Contact information
Getting down to some more specifics, you should also be reading the label of your probiotic for the following information:
Ensure that the probiotic supplement that you choose does not have high FODMAP ingredients. For example, some supplements contain prebiotics such as inulin, which is a high FODMAP food. Additionally, probiotics tend to be cultured in lactose-containing yogurt, which is high in FODMAPs and can cause uncomfortable symptoms. These ingredients will be listed on the label.
Probiotic Bacterial Strains for IBS
Check the label to see what strains of bacteria the probiotic contains. Not all probiotics are created equal! There is no set ‘formula’ for creating probiotics, and often products contain different species in different concentrations. Some studies suggest that the most beneficial species of bacteria for treating IBS include those in the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus genus. Make sure the product you choose contains species of this variety!
Probiotic Dose (Colony Forming Units)
Although there are no specific recommendations on the appropriate dose of probiotics for people with IBS, the American Academy of Family Physicians generally recommends products with more than 5 billion colony forming units* (CFUs) for children, and products with more than 10 billion CFUs for adults.
*Colony forming units are a unit of measurement that manufacturers use to provide customers with more information about the quantity of bacteria in their supplement.
Unless the probiotic product is freeze-dried, and in packaging to prevent moisture, probiotics need to be stored in the refrigerator. Heat can kill organisms and moisture can activate them. Without adequate nutrients and environment, they will die, and won’t be much help to your gut! Although not completely necessary, refrigerated probiotics are more likely to contain more viable bacteria, due to their stricter transportation and storage regulations.
We hope these reviews and suggestions will make your life a little easier if you choose to use a probiotic supplement as a part of your digestive health treatment plan. If you are looking for more information on the various ‘natural’ treatments for IBS, you may find my myth busting series helpful as well for do’s and don’ts.
Wishing you good gut health & wellness,
Stephanie & the Team