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Probiotics are often touted as a must-have for IBS, but while they can help some people, they are far from being a cure.
Before you reach for a probiotic supplement, there are a few things you should be aware of…
Firstly, you should speak to your healthcare provider to see whether a probiotic may be right for you. They should consider the following before recommending a probiotic supplement:
- Your symptom severity
- Your IBS subtype
- The specific bacterial strain(s) in the probiotic
We are not all the same, and probiotics are not all the same. So, don’t skip this step if you want to get the most out of trialing probiotic therapy.
👍 Pros of probiotics for IBS
- Some probiotics have been found to be helpful at reducing excess gas and bloating.
- They may be most beneficial to people who have post-infectious IBS.
- Probiotics may help offset any changes to the gut microbiota during the restrictive low FODMAP elimination phase, but more research is needed to confirm this.
👎 And the cons
- They might make things worse before they make things better (if they do at all).
- You may need to experiment with different strains and brands, and you’ll need to take each one for at least four weeks before you can decide if it’s helping or not.
- Some probiotics won’t even make it past your stomach – they are killed off by the hydrochloric acid in there – never mind making it down into your large intestine where you actually need them. Look for enteric-coated capsules.
Personally, I have found probiotics helpful, but only when taken consistently and in combination with other IBS management strategies, like a personalised diet that includes lots of prebiotic fibre, and lifestyle changes.
It’s worth noting that I have post-infectious IBS – IBS that occurs following a gastrointestinal infection – so I am in the minority who has been shown to see a benefit from probiotics.