Did you know that some probiotics may help with IBS?

Did you know that some probiotics may help with IBS?

  • Gut Health

  • By Desiree Nielsen, Registered Dietitian

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is more common than you might think: an estimated 18% of Canadians have this functional digestive disorder, higher than the estimated global prevalence of 11%1 . The ultimate brain-gut condition, IBS has presents in many different ways; some researchers believe it may actually be a spectrum of conditions with multiple root causes2 . Diet and lifestyle, particularly stress, contribute to symptoms as does bacterial dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the normal gut flora2 . In fact, it is well known that IBS can result from an acute gut infection such as food poisoning, strongly supporting the involvement of gut bacteria in the development of the condition2. Because gut bacteria are a suspected root cause, people with IBS are prime candidates for using probiotics as part of a therapeutic nutrition program. Now, there is a new Bio-K+ probiotic that it clinically proven for use in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D), called Bio-K+ IBS Control.

    Not all probiotics are equally effective
    Research suggests that probiotics may be effective in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) but putting this information to use is more difficult than you might expect3. As a dietitian for over 11 years, one of the greatest challenges in selecting a probiotic for irritable bowel syndrome is that not all probiotics have the same therapeutic action. Each strain – and combinations of strains – of probiotics can have a positive, neutral, or negative effect for any specific condition. For example, a probiotic strain that may have been effective at improving IBS symptoms in a clinical trial may not even be available on the market3 . Or, another combination that is helpful for ulcerative colitis may not be found effective in irritable bowel syndrome. What’s more, because of the gut-brain nature of the condition, it is not uncommon for the placebo (no treatment) group to improve over the course of a clinical trial, making it more difficult to assess the absolute effectiveness of probiotic treatments4.

    For these reasons, product-specific research is super important when selecting a probiotic for irritable bowel syndrome. You want to know that the same probiotic you pick up off the shelf has been proven in human clinical trials for the correct condition. We have known for quite some time that Bio-K+ is effective at helping to prevent the side effects of antibiotic use5; in fact, in Canada, Bio-K+ has two specific health claims from Health Canada for that use. However, I’ve
    also been using Bio-K+ myself and with my clients for over a decade for IBS with favourable results. Now, we have the first published evidence for using Bio-K+ in IBS, along with a specific health claim from Health Canada for improving quality of life in diarrhea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome.

    Bio-K+ Probiotics for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    In one recent clinical trial published in the journal Beneficial Microbes, a 100 billion dosage of Bio-K+ was tested in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome6. It was found that not only did quality of life improve, but that symptoms improved in those with IBS-D6. Among those symptoms, there were 150% fewer stools per day and a 90% improvement in stool consistency after 12 weeks, when compared to placebo6. This is an interesting finding as our core nutritional
    therapy for IBS-D is the low FODMAP diet, which has been found to have a deleterious effect

    on the gut microbiota7. For this reason, in my practice I have always used Bio-K+ alongside a low FODMAP diet, which I believe is an important tool in ensuring long term symptom management and the health of the gut microbiota.

    An effective solution for the complexities of IBS
    In my opinion, probiotics, like Bio-K+ IBS Control, are an important piece of an integrative approach to irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome is a complex condition that is challenging to treat; however, I’ve seen that symptom management and reduction is absolutely possible in my practice. An effective strategy is one that uses individualized nutritional approaches alongside stress management and supporting the gut microbiota with a probiotic. However, it is not enough to simply take any probiotic – it is important to select a probiotic that
    is clinically verified for use in irritable bowel syndrome, such as Bio-K+ IBS Control.


    1. Lovell, Rebecca M., and Alexander C. Ford. "Global prevalence of and risk factors for irritable bowel syndrome: a meta-analysis." Clinical gastroenterology and hepatology 10.7 (2012): 712- 721.
    2. Quigley, Eamonn MM. "The gut-brain axis and the microbiome: Clues to pathophysiology and opportunities for novel management strategies in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)." Journal of clinical medicine 7.1 (2018): 6.
    3. Zhang, Yan, et al. "Effects of probiotic type, dose and treatment duration on irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed by Rome III criteria: a meta-analysis." BMC gastroenterology 16.1 (2016): 62.
    4. Lyra, Anna, et al. "Irritable bowel syndrome symptom severity improves equally with probiotic and placebo." World journal of gastroenterology 22.48 (2016): 10631.
    5. Gao, Xing Wang, et al. "Dose–response efficacy of a proprietary probiotic formula of Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285 and Lactobacillus casei LBC80R for antibiotic-associated diarrhea and Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea prophylaxis in adult patients." The American journal of gastroenterology 105.7 (2010): 1636.
    6. Preston, K., et al. "Lactobacillus acidophilus CL1285, Lactobacillus casei LBC80R and Lactobacillus rhamnosus CLR2 improve quality-of-life and IBS symptoms: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study." Beneficial microbes 9.5 (2018): 697-706.
    7. Staudacher, Heidi M., and Kevin Whelan. "Altered gastrointestinal microbiota in irritable bowel syndrome and its modification by diet: probiotics, prebiotics and the low FODMAP diet." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 75.3 (2016): 306-318.

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    Desiree Nielsen Registered Dietitian
    About the author
    Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian, author and host of the vvegetarian ccooking sshow, The Urban Vegetarian. Desiree takes an evidence-based, integrative approach to her dietetics work, with a focus on anti-inflammatory, plant-centredcentered nutrition and digestive health.
    View all articles by Desiree Nielsen
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