Probiotics are commonly used dietary supplements for occasional digestive disorders. But you should know — not all products are the same. If you live with the often-debilitating symptoms of a more serious digestive disorder such as IBS, a medical food might be a better choice to manage your symptoms.
Probiotics vs. a Medical Food
Probiotics are live and active microorganisms that can provide health benefits when you take them in adequate amounts. They contain many of the same friendly bacteria and yeasts found in your GI tract, collectively known as microbiota. So, probiotics can repopulate your gut with additional beneficial microbes. In doing so, they support a healthy microbiome — the vast ecosystem in your gut. And improving the health of your microbiome is an essential step in managing IBS symptoms.
When scientists refer to specific types of probiotics, they identify them according to their genus, species, and strain. For bacterial probiotics, as an example:
There are many species and strains of probiotics, and each contributes something different to the microbiome. Sometimes they work better in certain combinations. That’s the case with IBS. If you used probiotics in the past but didn’t notice any improvement in your IBS symptoms, there’s a good reason. You likely didn’t have the correct type of probiotic species and strains.
Medical foods are different from probiotics. A medical food for IBS contains the specific species and strains of probiotics clinically tested to show benefits for IBS. They are specially formulated and intended for the dietary management of a disease or condition with distinctive nutritional needs that you can’t meet through diet changes alone.
Ther-Biotic ProTM IBS Relief with IBS DefenseTM is a medical food for the management of IBS. In clinical trials, the three probiotic strains included in Ther-Biotic Pro™ IBS Relief’s unique IBS-Defense™ formulation have been shown on average to reduce IBS symptoms and/or normalize bowel habits in individuals with IBS.†
The Best Species and Strains for IBS
Researchers have studied different types of probiotics to see if they might impact IBS symptoms. Here’s some of what they’ve found when testing various probiotics against a placebo on people with IBS symptoms:†
- L. plantarum reduced abdominal pain and bloating in a four-week study. (1) Results of a 12-week study showed it reduced the severity of abdominal pain by 67%, diarrhea by 70%, and constipation by 79%. It’s also worth noting that L. plantarum may help improve the quality of life in those with IBS. People who took this probiotic reported a 110% improvement in mental well-being after 12 weeks. (2)
- Adults diagnosed with functional constipation reported more regular bowel movements after supplementing with the probiotic B. lactis for 28 days, compared to those who took a placebo. (3)
- After 12 weeks, adults with moderate to severe IBS-related pain who took the probiotic L. acidophilusreported significantly less abdominal pain compared to those who took a placebo. (4)
These are just a few studies that show promise, but certainly, there’s good evidence that specific species and strains of probiotics might offer a way to help manage IBS symptoms. And yes, these are the same species and strains in Ther-Biotic ProTM IBS Relief with IBS DefenseTM.†
Prebiotics and IBS
All probiotic species and strains work best when paired with prebiotic fiber. That’s a type of fiber found in most plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It’s highest in these foods:
- Underripe bananas
- Chicory root
Prebiotics are a source of food, or fertilizer, for probiotics. Without adequate prebiotic fiber to nourish them, probiotics won’t survive or thrive. In fact, one of the reasons for an unhealthy microbiome (also called dysbiosis) is the very low fiber Standard American Diet.
Ideally, you should get plenty of prebiotic fiber through your diet. If needed, you can also take prebiotic supplements. Some probiotic manufacturers pair probiotics and prebiotics together to enhance their effectiveness.
There is one downside to eating lots of prebiotic fiber when you have IBS: Many prebiotics are high in FODMAPs — highly fermentable carbohydrates.
FODMAP stands for:
These are starches, sugars, and other compounds in certain foods. They’re poorly absorbed in your small intestine, but your gut bacteria digest and break them down for you by fermenting them. The downside of FODMAPs is that they draw water into your large intestine, and that can cause diarrhea. Also, a by-product of bacterial fermentation is gas.
If you have IBS, you may find eating certain high FODMAP foods or ingredients can worsen IBS symptoms. If you’ve ever tried a probiotic and felt it worsened your IBS symptoms, it might have contained a high FODMAP prebiotic such as inulin (made from chicory root).
Ther-Biotic ProTM IBS Relief with IBS DefenseTM contains a low FODMAP prebiotic to support the probiotic strains. It’s also hypoallergenic — free from the most common allergens. After ingestion, proprietary InTactic®technology protects the probiotics from gastric acid, digestive enzymes, and bile salts. This enhances the delivery of the live probiotics to your lower colon. That means they’re effectively delivered right where they’re needed.
The bottom line is that probiotics are a safe, effective tool to support your microbiome. Still, it’s important to do your homework. For IBS, a medical food with the right ingredients and clinically supported species and strains can provide optimal results.†
- Ducrotté P, Sawant P, Jayanthi V. World J Gastroenterol. 2012;18(30):4012-4018.
- Krammer H, Storr M, Madisch A, Riffel J. Z Gastroenterol. 2021 Feb 8;59(2):125–34.
- Ibarra A, Latreille-Barbier M, Donazzolo Y, Pelletier X, Ouwehand AC. Gut Microbes. 2018 May 4;9(3):236-51.
- Lyra A, Hillilä M, Huttunen T, Männikkö S, Taalikka M, Tennilä J, Tarpila A, Lahtinen S, Ouwehand