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.
The evidence is always changing so make sure you sign up for the newsletter to stay up-to-date or join me in the free Facebook group Beyond FODMAPs where get support to help you improve your digestive health and better manage symptoms.
And if you need a little more help with the Low FODMAP diet and how to follow it best to better manage digestive symptoms, then sign up for this free guide:
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!
4 Steps to Choosing a Probiotic Supplement for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Step 1: Read the Label for FODMAPs
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.
Step 2: Choose Probiotic 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!
Step 3: Get a Good Dose of Probiotics
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.
Step 4: Choose Chilled Bacteria
- 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.
Probiotics Brands for IBS
The following reviews are on some low FODMAP probiotic supplements at every price point to help you select the best option to fit within your budget.
VSL#3 – $110/pack of 30 sachets
Available in sachets that you mix with water. Contains 450 billion CFUs per sachet (very high potency). Research conducted specifically on people with IBS showed some evidence that VSL#3 reduced bloating, gas and diarrhea in patients. VSL#3 is available without a prescription and can be found at most Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies (behind the counter) or on the company website. NOTE: Not suitable for those with dairy allergy as cultures are grown in dairy products; however, they are safe for those following a low FODMAP diet because they contain such a small amount.
Very high concentration of probiotics, research supporting its benefits for those suffering with IBS, and contains a variety of strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.
Expensive, less convenient than capsules (extra step to mix with water).
Renew Life Ultimate Flora: Ultra Potent – $49.99/30 capsules
Available in capsule form. Contains 100 billion CFU per capsule. Available at most health food stores or in the natural section of grocery store. NOTE: The company claims this product is dairy-free, so it should be safe for those with dairy allergies (I recommend calling manufacturer to be safe though) or those following a low FODMAP diet.
High CFU content, contains a variety of strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and is easy to find in stores.
Still a little pricey and has no research to prove its effectiveness for IBS sufferers.
IÖGO Probio Lactose-Free Yogurt – $3.99/650g
Contains around 1 billion Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus bacteria per 100 gram serving. This product is available at most grocery stores and is a reasonably priced alternative. NOTE: Not suitable for those with dairy allergies as cultures are grown in dairy products; however, they are safe for those following a low FODMAP diet because they contain such a small amount.
Inexpensive, easy to take (and delicious!) and readily available at grocery stores.
Has only a small dose of probiotics per serving, therefore may not be as effective as other probiotic sources. Does not contain a wide variety of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillis strains.
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.
Do you have any additional questions about probiotics? Or perhaps have found a low FODMAP brand that has worked for you? Please comment below and share your story.
Wishing you good gut health & wellness,
Stephanie & the Team
References Used for Article
Ford AC, Quigley EMM, Lacy BE, Lembo AJ, Saito YA, Schiller LR, et al. Efficacy of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2014;109(10):1547.
Hoveyda N, Heneghan C, Mahtani KR, Perera R, Roberts N, Glasziou P. A systematic review and meta-analysis: probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome. BMC gastroenterology. 2009;9(1):15.
American Association of Family Physicians. (2008). Probiotics. Retrieved from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/1101/p1073.html