New research indicates that Bifidobacterium, the good intestinal bacteria found in probiotic supplements can significantly improve symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers studied the effects of probiotics on 77 patients (64% female) with IBS. After the subjects spent two weeks without any medication, they were randomized to receive either a placebo, Lactobacillus spp or Bifidobacterium spp, for 8 weeks, once daily. IBS symptoms were recorded daily throughout the entire study.
Compared to patients consuming the placebo, subjects receiving Bifidobacterium experienced significantly reduced pain, bloating, and bowel movement difficulty. Incorporating all symptoms, the researchers noted significant improvement in response to Bifidobacterium for all weeks of the study. Improvement was greater with Bifidobacterium than with placebo and Lactobacillus. The patients taking Bifidobacterium also experienced an improved quality of life. Four weeks after the patients discontinued treatment, both symptoms and quality of life returned to baseline.
Quigley E, O'Mahony L, McCarthy J, et al. Probiotics for the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled comparison of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains. Gastroenterology. 2002;122:A-59.