July 2013

Multi-Species Probiotics Evaluated For IBS Symptoms

Multi-species probiotics may be effective in people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a study.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be referred to as spastic colon, mucous colitis, spastic colitis, nervous stomach, or irritable colon. IBS is a functional bowel disorder, conditions in which the bowel appears normal but does not function normally. IBS is fairly common and makes up 20 - 50% of visits to gastroenterologists (doctors who diagnose and treat digestive problems). Lower abdominal pain, and bloating associated with alteration of bowel habits (constipation and/or diarrhea) and abdominal discomfort relieved with defecation are the most frequent symptoms.

Probiotic bacteria have been found to stimulate the body's immune system. They may also aid in several stomach illnesses such as inflammatory bowel diseases, antibiotic-related diarrhea, Clostridium difficile toxin-induced colitis, infectious diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and allergies. Probiotics have been found to enhance the digestion and absorption of proteins, fats, calcium, and phosphorus. They may also help overcome lactose intolerance and restore healthful bacteria after a course of antibiotic therapy has altered the normal gastrointestinal flora.

In the current study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of multi-species probiotics for IBS symptoms and any resulting changes in gut bacteria. They included a total of 49 people with IBS, who were randomly assigned to receive either multi-species probiotics (a combination of Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Streptococcus thermophilus) or a placebo, twice a day for four weeks. The research team looked at whether probiotic treatment improved IBS symptoms such as stomach pain/discomfort, bloating, bowel movement frequency, and changes in gut bacteria within the four-week period.

The results showed that IBS symptoms were significantly improved at week four in the probiotics group, compared to the placebo group. Symptoms such as stomach pain/discomfort and bloating improved in those who had received probiotic treatment, but lacked improvement in the placebo group. The researchers analyzed the subjects' stool and found that probiotic treatment increased levels ofB. lactis, L. rhamnosus and S. thermophilus, while only B. lactis increased in people given placebo.

The authors concluded that multi-species probiotics may be an effective way to reduce IBS symptoms and change gut bacteria levels. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

In addition to probiotics, numerous alternative and complementary treatments have been studied in the treatment of IBS. There is strong scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of peppermint for use in relieving symptoms of this condition, while hypnotherapy and hypnosis are backed by good scientific evidence for IBS.

For more information about IBS, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Yoon JS, Sohn W, Lee OY, et al. Effect of multi-species probiotics on irritable bowel syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013 Jul 5. doi: 10.1111/jgh.12322. [Epub ahead of print] 

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