Do probiotics help IBS?

Do probiotics help IBS?

A guide to managing medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome


Many of us complain from time to time, but those with a medical diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (MD-IBS) experience a completely different belly problem. 

The term "irritable" in MD-IBS explains increased sensitivity, which causes nerve endings in the gut to become sensitive and susceptible to stimulation by certain foods and environmental factors such as stress.[1]

Think back to a time when you were grumpy or irritable, your fuse became a little shorter than usual, and the little things became the big things. When you have MD-IBS, the experience is very similar to your intuition. 

As a chronic condition, MD-IBS may require ongoing care.[2]  While this may seem intimidating, it doesn't have to be. With the support of your healthcare practitioner, there are many effective ways to relieve MD-IBS symptoms. In addition to dietary and lifestyle measures, new research uncovers a link between the microbiome-gut-brain axis and MD-IBS symptoms, combining the gut microbiome and beneficial bacteria to treat and manage the disease. be the focus. 

So, let’s delve into the link between MD-IBS, gut microbiota, and the role of probiotics on IBS symptoms. 

More about MD-IBS

MD-IBS is characterized by a range of symptoms that affect the large intestine, including changes in normal bowel health, such as abdominal pain, gas, and bloating.[3]  It is called a "functional" disorder because it is not associated with any visible/structural abnormalities of the gut, and is usually diagnosed based on the absence of other gut disorders. [4]


How common is MD-IBS?

MD-IBS is more common than you might think.

About one in five Australians experience MD-IBS at some point in their lives, which is why up to 50% of bowel-related GP visits are made.[5] [6] [4] MD-IBS is more common in women, and symptoms usually first appear in early adulthood.

Although the cause of MD-IBS is unknown, it is believed to involve the digestive, immune and nervous systems. It has recently been found that MD-IBS may occur due to abnormalities in the microbiome-gut-brain axis.

What is the microbiome-gut-brain axis?

The microbiome-gut-brain axis describes a complex network of communication pathways that connect parts of the nervous system to the gut and the microbes that grow in it. This two-way communication pathway allows gut health to influence brain health and vice versa. If you've ever had the feeling of a butterfly in your stomach, then you've experienced the connection firsthand.   


What do microbes have to do with MD-IBS?

Studies have shown that people with MD-IBS have different microbial communities in their guts compared to people with healthy gut function. 4 While much remains to be learned, these recent discoveries have led to the use of probiotic therapy for the treatment of MD-IBS. 

MD-IBS treatment: Probiotics

Recent research suggests that supplementing with beneficial probiotics can help relieve symptoms of MD-IBS.

For example, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v is a strain of probiotic bacteria that attaches to the intestinal lining of the gut and, in addition to supporting healthy bowel function, can also relieve abdominal pain, bloating and gas.[7]

Diet and lifestyle support:

One of the best ways to manage MD-IBS is to take a "prevention is better than cure" approach and avoid triggers as much as possible.

Common dietary and lifestyle triggers of MD-IBS include:


Irregular eating habits

Potential food triggers: alcohol, caffeine, spicy food, high fat

Lack of physical activity

Poor quality sleep [1] [8] [9]


So, based on what we currently know about better managing MD-IBS, here are 3 of the best tips to help relieve symptoms and improve gut health:

Wake up and smell your routine - when it comes to symptom management, routine is key. For MD-IBS, maintaining regular, regular meal times, a daily exercise program, and good sleep habits can make all the difference in the world.[9]

Go easy on the spice (and some other things nice) – Coffee, alcohol, and fatty foods can take a toll on digestive health at the best of times, and people with MD-IBS may be especially sensitive. Some evidence also suggests that following a more advanced diet plan, such as the FODMAP diet, is beneficial. At the end of the day, however, we are all unique, so we recommend that you consult with your medical professional to see which diet is right for you. [8]

Always read labels and follow directions for use. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet. If you are seeking more specific health advice about IBS, please consult your health professional. 

[1] Better Health Channel.  Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) [Internet].  Better Health Channel. 2021 [updated 2021; cited December 23rd 2021].  Available from:

[2] Drossman, D.A. FAQs about IBS [Internet]. Chapel Hill, NC, USA; The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. 2021 [updated 2021; cited 2021, 23RD December]. Available from:

[3] Mayo Clinic. Irritable Bowel Syndrome [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2021 [Updated December 1, 2021: cited December 23rd 2021].  Available from:

[4] Borghini R, Donato G, Alvaro D, Picarelli A. New insights in IBS-like disorders: Pandora's box has been opened; a review. Gastroenterology and Hepatology from bed to bench. 2017;10(2):79.

[5] Aziz, I., Törnblom, H., Palsson, O.S., Whitehead, W.E. and Simrén, M., 2018. How the change in IBS criteria from Rome III to Rome IV impacts on clinical characteristics and key pathophysiological factors. Official journal of the American College of Gastroenterology| ACG113(7), pp.1017-1025.

[6] Kennedy PJ, Cryan JF, Dinan TG, Clarke G. Irritable bowel syndrome: a microbiome-gut-brain axis disorder?. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG. 2014 Oct 21;20(39):14105.

[7] Ducrotté P, Sawant P, Jayanthi V. Clinical trial: Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (DSM 9843) improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. World journal of gastroenterology: WJG. 2012 Aug 14;18(30):4012.

[8] Guo YB, Zhuang KM, Kuang L, Zhan Q, Wang XF, Liu SD. Association between diet and lifestyle habits and irritable bowel syndrome: a case-control study. Gut and liver. 2015 Sep;9(5):649.

[9] Cozma-Petruţ A, Loghin F, Miere D, Dumitraşcu DL. Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients!. World journal of gastroenterology. 2017 Jun 7;23(21):3771.


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