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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common health condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics are living microorganisms that are present in the gut and have some potential benefits. Probiotic supplements may help improve symptoms in some people with IBS.

Studies show that IBS affects up to 15% of the world’s population. This common chronic condition causes a range of symptoms, such as abdominal pain and diarrhea.

In a 2019 review of 11 studies, seven of the studies found that the use of probiotic supplements significantly improved symptoms such as bloating and abdominal pain in people with IBS, compared with a placebo. However, four of the reviewed studies did not observe a significant improvement.

This article examines the science behind probiotics and presents some options for people with IBS.

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Probiotics could be a helpful addition to treatment for some individuals with IBS. However, it is unclear how probiotics can treat this condition.

For instance, a 2019 review highlights a lack of clarity on the specific type, dose, or duration of probiotic treatment for IBS. In addition, different trials use varying amounts and types of probiotics to treat IBS, which makes it difficult to compare their outcomes.

The authors of a 2016 clinical trial report that various probiotic strains produce different outcomes in people with IBS with constipation. They suggest that individuals taking multi-strain probiotic supplements for at least 8 weeks may get the most benefits.

However, there is also evidence that taking low doses of single-strain probiotics for shorter periods is most effective.

Another 2019 review notes that some studies found a general improvement of all IBS symptoms, and others found that only certain symptoms, such as abdominal pain or bloating, improved.

A 2020 review of 59 studies suggests that probiotics may be a safe and effective treatment for IBS patients. Different reviews have found that both multi- and single-strain probiotics may be effective at improving some symptoms of IBS.

It is important to note that more research is needed to determine the most effective dose, length of treatment, and strains of probiotics for IBS.

The evidence is still accumulating, and more research is necessary to provide clear answers. However, probiotics appear to be helpful for IBS symptoms, such as:

  • abdominal pain
  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • bacterial imbalance

Probiotics are live bacteria similar to those in an individual’s natural gut flora. They can cause some side effects but are generally safe for human consumption.

The strain and type of a probiotic can determine the health benefits that it can offer.

Specific strains of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus (L.) acidophilus, L. rhamnosus GG, and Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, may benefit people with IBS and are often present in probiotic supplements.

In addition to the strain and type of a probiotic, a person may want to know whether a product:

  • has earned the trust of healthcare professionals, such as dietitians
  • has a sufficient number of colony-forming units (CFUs), which indicates the number of viable bacteria per dose
  • contains strains that are likely to benefit the person’s specific symptoms

The minimum recommended effective daily dose is between 100 million and 1 billion cells per day. Most probiotics contain at least 1 billion CFUs.

Probiotics are vulnerable to temperature change and storage time, and therefore, many may no longer be viable by the time a person purchases a product.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that individuals choose products that include information about the number of CFU at the end of the shelf life of a product, which indicates that a product contains a therapeutic amount of CFU after the purchase.

People with allergies or food sensitivities should check probiotic labels for ingredients that could cause an undesirable reaction.

The following products are probiotic supplements. None are clinically proven to benefit individuals with IBS. People may wish to research alternative brands and products to find ones that suit their needs and preferences best.

A healthcare professional can offer advice on whether a probiotic is suitable for someone with IBS and which options are best.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Stonehenge Health Dynamic Biotics

These probiotics include 16 strains, substrains, prebiotics, and over 50 billion CFUs.

The product is vegan and does not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO), soy, gluten, or artificial ingredients. Also, it comes with a 90-day money back guarantee.

However, it is frequently out of stock.

This product costs $49.95 for a 1-month supply, $43.99 per bottle for a 3-month supply, and $37.99 per bottle for a 6-month supply.

1MD Nutrition Complete Probiotics

This supplement includes 11 strains, substrains, prebiotics, and over 50 billion CFUs.

All ingredients are natural and vegan, and the product is free from dairy, gluten, soy, preservatives, and GMOs. Moreover, the manufacturer offers a 90-day money back guarantee.

However, the supplement does not list the CFU count, and it comes with a limited 30-day return policy.

The cost of these probiotics is $40.99 for a 1-month supply, and $35.99 per bottle for a 3-month supply.

60 Billion Probiotics by Physician’s Choice

This supplement includes 10 probiotic strains and 60 billion CFUs.

It has high consumer ratings for effectiveness, but it does not include any clinically studied substrains.

A 1-month supply of this supplement costs $23.95.

Align Probiotic 24/7 Digestive Support

This supplement includes one probiotic strain and prebiotics. It has 5 billion CFUs and contains no gluten.

The product has high consumer ratings for effectiveness, and doctors recommend it. The company also offers a money back guarantee.

However, it has a low number of probiotic strains.

The supplement costs around $27.99 for 28 capsules, although prices vary among retailers.

Culturelle Digestive Daily Probiotic

This supplement includes one probiotic strain and 10 billion live cultures.

It also has high ratings from consumers, although it does not list CFUs in its formula.

The product costs around $18.49 for a 1-month supply.

There are other options available for treating IBS.

For example, people reluctant to try probiotic supplements could try eating probiotic-rich foods, such as:

Individuals with IBS might also benefit from consuming a diet low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, or low FODMAP diet. This diet minimizes the amount of some carbohydrates that are difficult to digest, such as specific fruits, grains, and dairy products.

People with IBS usually receive treatment from gastroenterologists. These specialists can develop a treatment plan based on a person’s symptoms and overall health.

Some treatment plans include antibiotics, muscle relaxers, or antidepressants.

Moreover, some research suggests that cognitive behavioral therapy may help treat people with IBS.

Anyone experiencing IBS symptoms should consult a healthcare professional before taking probiotics, changing their dietary habits, or starting any other treatment for IBS.

Probiotics are live bacteria similar to those present in the gut. Introducing these bacteria into the gut can balance the ratio of good and bad bacteria to improve digestion and minimize abdominal upset and discomfort.

Clinical research suggests that probiotics may help manage more severe IBS symptoms. However, more research is necessary to determine the right type, dose, and duration of probiotic treatment for people with IBS.