It’s hard to imagine that when you gaze up at the night sky and take in the countless stars, there is actually a much more expansive universe existing within your very own gut, in the form of trillions of bacteria.
Good Bacteria vs. Bad Bacteria: Probiotics in the Gut
However, these trillions of bacteria are not always living in perfect harmony with one another, in some sort of utopian paradise. There is a constant battle unfolding within this fortress called the microbiome, the timeless tale of good vs evil. However, in this story, it is good bacteria vs bad bacteria.
What are probiotics? What is dysbiosis?
Probiotics are understood as the ‘good guys’, as they serve to keep your gut healthy by providing good bacteria. But what happens when bad bacteria outnumber the good? This is called dysbiosis. Where dysbiosis exists, unfavorable symptoms may emerge, generally under the title of IBS.
However, research in probiotics shows promise. Adding the right probiotics may help to increase good bacteria and decrease bad bacteria, reestablishing a healthy gut. One way probiotics may do this is through impairing the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
Preliminary research reveals that several probiotics have potential in alleviating symptoms associated with IBS. Let’s explore some of the noteworthy probiotic representatives.
Probiotic #1 – VSL#3
Sounding like a magic potion of sorts, this bacterial trilogy is composed of Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Streptococcus salivarius. Compared to the placebo, patients experienced significantly less bloating and flatulence in two separate double-blind placebo studies.
Probiotic #2 – SCM-III
Nearly 70 people with IBS participated in a study where they received SCM-III, or placebo. After 12 weeks, this lovely, live, bacterial blend was reported to benefit bloating, pain within the abdomen, and bowel movements.
Probiotic #3 – Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
This dynamic duo helped to alleviate abdominal pain, improve bloating and increase ‘bowel habit satisfaction’ in several studies when evaluated both independently, and together.
Probiotic #4 – Bacillus coagulans
In one study of 85 people, a synbiotic (containing both probiotics and prebiotics) was reported to reduce abdominal pain, as well as diarrhea after 12 weeks. Added bonus – this particular strain does not require refrigeration.
Although the jury is still out, some sources favor Bifidobacterium infantis as the IBS party nominee. However, more extensive studies may be warranted to address specific questions regarding best practices for probiotic use. While these particular strains may benefit those experiencing IBS, don’t forget that overall, probiotics will do a world of good for your gastrointestinal galaxy, as well your general health. Whether you find yourself in the aisle contemplating your probiotic weapon of choice, snacking on sauerkraut, crunching kimchi or just sipping on some kombucha, know that whichever probiotic you choose, you are choosing a benefit to your health.
Aragon, G., Graham, D. B., Borum, M., & Doman, D. B. (2016, January 10). Probiotic Therapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Retrieved April 13, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2886445/
Rogha, M., Esfahani, M. Z., & Zargarzadeh, A. H. (2014). The efficacy of a synbiotic containing Bacillus Coagulans in treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4129566/