Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common gastrointestinal condition in North America with an estimated 30 to 50 million sufferers. Yet it remains one of the most difficult to treat. The chronic and often debilitating symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, and/or diarrhea. Treating IBS can be a difficult process for doctors and a frustrating one for patients. The good news is that probiotics can offer IBS relief.
The symptoms of IBS vary from person to person. While one may experience frequent bouts of diarrhea, another may have the total opposite problem and be constipated for days. Other symptoms can consist of intestinal spasms, excessive gas, or mucus in the stool. Factors such as stress, diet, or hormone replacement therapy may make symptoms worse. IBS relief can be difficult.
If you are diagnosed with IBS, you need treatment that is specific to your symptoms. Because multiple symptoms often co-exist, you might need more than one therapy to combat each symptom. It can be frustrating and stressful to say the least.
Although medical treatment helps some people with IBS, others have had more success with natural solutions. For more than a century, doctors have been looking at the potential therapeutic benefits of probiotics and recent research suggests specific probiotic strains can benefit sufferers of irritable bowel syndrome.
Probiotics help restore an appropriate balance of intestinal flora. Probiotics are the microorganisms, or flora, naturally present in the human gut and contain ‘friendly’ bacteria and yeasts that are essential in maintaining normal gastrointestinal function.
Probiotics also help to decrease ‘unfriendly’ bacteria and yeasts that can cause infections. According to the latest research, probiotics help strengthen the body’s natural defenses. If the intestinal flora becomes unbalanced, the intestinal tract may not function normally. This abnormality may cause gastrointestinal difficulties. Certain probiotics are capable of preventing infection by pathogens, either by stimulating the immune system or direct killing of pathogens.
Ideally you want a balanced ecosystem in the gut in which the beneficial probiotic bacteria predominate. For general health, a daily dose of 5 billion to 10 billion live bacteria – colony forming units or CFU – is ideal. For those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, higher doses of 20 billion to 50 billion per day are more appropriate.