The Best Intestinal Probiotics for IBS:Get the Germs You Need!

Why you should spend money to buy bacteria.

Probiotics stamp.
Your intestinal bacteria is a HUGE part of your health. Make sure you treat it kindly
© Can Stock Photo

Studies have shown that intestinal probiotics, (often just called probiotics), can help IBS symptoms.

The trouble is that many people buy probiotics that don’t contain the right bacteria for IBS.

Okay, what are intestinal probiotics and why do I need them?

“Probiotic” is a name for bacteria that your body needs (more below).

Probiotic capsules are one way to get that bacteria.

If you have IBS, there’s a good chance your intestinal bacteria might be out of whack (the technical term for that is dysbiosis).

There are many ways this can happen, including a poor diet, illness, or the use of antibiotics.

Once the residents of your bowels become unbalanced, you can get those familiar IBS symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc.

If it’s dysbiosis, I’ve only seen a few ways to fix that (remembering I’m just a person like you with IBS, that reads too much a lot :) ).

  • Taking more antibiotics to kill off bacteria in the wrong place (see SIBO)
  • A complete diet change to encourage the needed bacteria to multiply (which can take a while and may never happen).
  • Adding helpful bacteria by taking intestinal probiotics.

One of the most effective options seems to be taking the probiotics.

So you’re saying I need more bacteria???

First of all bacteria has an unfair reputation for being bad. You actually need the bacteria in your bowels. They’re part of your immune system; they help digest food; they even create some of the vitamins you need!

You couldn’t survive without the little guys.

Unfortunately, bacteria in an infection or illness gives other bacteria a bad name.

And when you do get an infection or illness, sometimes the doctor needs to give you antibiotics to kill the bad bacteria.

The trouble is, antibiotics also wipe out good bacteria that you need.

Are antibiotics bad, then?

No, they can save your life. Antibiotics have saved many, many lives. But they kill bacteria you need, and when that happens you need to build that bacteria back up.

Now some people that exercise and have the perfect diet, may be able to get their intestinal bacteria back in balance with no assistance. Others, (like some people with IBS for instance) need a bit of help.

That’s where intestinal probiotics come in.

Study proves that intestinal probiotics can help IBS symptoms!

Probiotic cartoon holding a sign saying he is a bowel professional.
He may not look like much, but he’s doing a very important job for you!
© Can Stock Photo

But they have to be the right kind.

According to this study, the best probiotic for IBS is bifidobacterium infantis, sometimes called bifidobacterium or b. infantis.

People in the study took either took Lactobacillus salivarius , b. infantis, or a placebo (which can also surprisingly help IBS).

The people taking the b. infantis had the best results, showing improvement in bloating, abdominal pain, and difficulty “going”.

So if you try probiotics, you may want to look for bifidobacterium infantis,  bifidobacterium or b. infantis on the bottle.

Remember the enteric coating.

An enteric coated capsule dissolves in the intestines instead of the stomach.

That means the bacteria has a better chance of not getting destroyed by your stomach acid.

The best probiotics for IBS won’t do you any good if the bacteria gets wiped out before it reaches your intestines.

So remember:

Eat your germs, they’re good for you!

Sorry. I couldn’t resist :).

Note: you should talk to your doctor before using probiotics, especially if you have a compromised immune system.

 Let me know what you think about it in the comments section!

Comments

    • says

      Hi Natasha, sorry for the late reply. The way I do it is I go to a health food store, then I look at the brands. I then try to avoid buying the cheapest, but I don’t buy the most expensive brand either. I know that’s not scientific. Another method would be to go somewhere like Amazon.com and look at the reviews. Some reviews can be fake, but you may get a better idea on what to buy. I don’t have a particular brand to recommend. HEY OUT THERE, DOES ANYONE OF YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BRAND???

  1. Nancy says

    Hi – Just wondering if I “cannot” consume Greek yogurt if probiotics would also be a bad idea. Plain yogurt is fine but Greek style means curled up in a ball missing work and hating life. It’s been suggested I try probiotics but I’m terrified.

    • says

      In my layman’s opinion, I think that you are probably having a problem with other things in the yogurt. Casein or lactose or whatever. Our bodies have many kinds of microorganisms like the probiotics. They’re already inside you. So I don’t think taking them would hurt you. Just my opinion.

  2. Sufia says

    A gastroenterologist recently told me about VSL 3 and also peppermint oil capsules as well. This seemed to help me so far, as I’ve been suffering for years! It’s rather expensive, but sometimes your health shouldn’t be compromised because of cost… The VSL brand also carries another probiotic that is stronger and is only available through prescription. Perhaps, this will help cut the cost since it might be covered by insurance.

  3. Meg says

    My gastroenterologist recommended VSL3 for my recently diagnosed IBS….. I am taking the non Rx capsules. I LOVE THIS STUFF. It is expensive, but it has improved my symptoms 90%. I am beginning to think I may be intolerant of wheat. Best of Luck.

  4. Sean says

    I had a doctor recommend an over the counter probiotic called Align – and I have been amazed with the progress over the first four weeks – bowel movements back to normal, no bloating. Now that being said, I have had my first real bad “cramping” days over the last two days – usually these last for one to two weeks, and they now seem to be fairly mild and might only last a couple of days….here is hoping. But the Align is worth a try!

  5. Alexandra says

    I’ve just orderred Align from Amazon. Probiotics have never helped me but then it might have been due to taking the wrong strains plus I’m not that good at keeping up the doses! I’ll let you all know how I do in a couple of weeks’ time.

    Alexxx

  6. Z says

    I can attest that VSL3 helped me tremendously, and I’ve been taking one-month courses of it about once every six months for the past two and a half years. My gastroenterologist prescribed it to me when I asked about probiotics.

    Correlation does not mean causation, but I had my first solid bowel movement in like a year after a week and a half of VSL3 and have believed in it ever since.

    When I’ve been asymptomatic and taken it, I’ve had instances of eating irresponsibly bowel-bothering foods (like a whole bag of dried fruit one time!) and having a totally normal bowel movement, even when friends of mine with no problems comment that they think they’ll probably have weird bowel movements.

    I hope research in probiotics expands significantly in the next few years.

    I was first turned onto the idea of probiotics after reading a NY Times article about fecal transplants tremendously helping some people – that’s right, putting a healthy person’s feces in the large intestine of someone with UC or something like that. Honestly, I’ve been pretty OK for the past few years, but if more research is done on these (the most extreme probiotic regimen possible), I would consider getting one just because they apparently don’t have side effects and can *cure* people with extreme UC. Crazy, huh?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/17/health/disgusting-maybe-but-treatment-works-study-finds.html?_r=0

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/13/science/13micro.html?pagewanted=all

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fecal_bacteriotherapy

    • says

      Z, I REALLY want to thank for this incredibly useful information! I’ve heard of this treatment in the distant past. I think it might have still been experimental at the time. Thank you SO much for the links, and the comprehensive explanation. I’ve been to busy to put much info up on the site (guilt), but this warrants it’s own page! I will also be looking into the VSL3 that you’ve been using.

      Thanks Z, and all of you that take the time to comment. I truly believe that you are each helping others by sharing your stories and information. – Shawn

  7. Sonia says

    I’ve tried a few probiotics (and yogurts like Activia) that claim to help with IBS and other bowel issues, and had found them helpful only when I took them with antibiotics to prevent diarrhea or yeast infection. More recently I tried the b.Infantis probiotic “Align” which I found at Walmart. I honestly didn’t think it was going to do any good, but was desperate to resolve severe constipation and bowel pain. I am shocked and happy to report that within 3 days (yes, days) of taking this probiotic, my BMs are normal. This is almost too good to be true. I’ve suffered lifelong constipation and became dependant on Lactulose, an osmotic laxative, which resulted in liquid, pale, oily stools. I used to swing between intractable constipation and lactulose-induced urgency. I forgot what it was like to go normally. It’s almost as if all I needed was the right bacteria, the b.infantis, for my gut to heal and function properly. As an unexpected side benefit, it has resolved my severely chapped lips. This would mean that it is beneficial not just for the bowels, but for the body as a whole. And I just started taking taking this product. If the positive effects continue, I will take this for the rest of my life. It can be costly at around $30 a month, but some of the websites sell larger quantities at better prices. I’m sad I didn’t know about this probiotic sooner. I wish family doctors would be willing to make suggestions and acknowledge the effectiveness of some of these more natural remedies. There is scientific evidence in peer-reviewed journals to back it up, in particular the helpfulness of b.infantis in IBS. This letter is my small contribution to get the word out. Best wishes and better health to everyone!

    • says

      I am very grateful for this information Sonia. I’m in pretty good shape as far as IBS, but I’ve decided to try this after reading your comment as well as the others here.

      I’ll let folks know how I make out.

  8. Sonia says

    This is a follow-up to my previous post about the Align probiotic. I had to stop taking it, as the constipation returned with a vengeance on Day 5, 6, and 7, accompanied by severe abdominal pain from trapped gas. Clearly the benefits were short-lived. The lesson here: when things seem too good to be true, maybe they are. Please accept my apologies for raving about a product without doing my due dilligence. I will be trying the Culturelle rhamnosis probiotic (the version without inulin) and could report back (in several weeks) on the results. Please disregard my premature “testimonial”.

    • says

      I’m really sorry to hear it stopped working for you Sonia. Other people have stopped by and said it worked for them. I hope it still is. I REALLY appreciate you taking the time to come back with an update. No apologies needed. I hope you have great success with the Culturelle Rhamnosis. I look forward to hearing back from you when you have time. – Thanks for your update! – Shawn

    • dkaj says

      This is in reply to Sonia and her experience with Align. Inulin is a pre-biotic that can cause some people with IBS problems. Inulin can be another name for chicory root fiber, and many people have a horrific time with it, especially those who suffer from IBS. Ever try Fiber One bars or cereal and have tummy troubles after eating those…. Well, it’s because they put chicory root fiber in those and that’s how they get the fiber content up to 10gm of fiber in one bar. People have ended up in the ER after eating too many of those thinking they were going to die! If you have malabsorption issues or intolerances, might be worth looking into the FODMAPs diet. FODMAPs are groups of foods that are easily fermentable in the digestive tract. Inulin is listed as a fructan along with wheat.

  9. Rennie says

    I live in the Netherlands and my general practitioner also says i have IBS. Been having problems for a couple of years. Done some research and it seems I haven’t got it as bad as some people. Mostly a bloated feeling and occiasionally abdominal pain and bad consistancy of fecal matter (gross i know). It’s super annoying though. I’ve also read something about pepperpint oil pills. Still have to try them. I’m also looking into try probiotics for the first time now. Can you give any advice to a certain brand which has the bifidobacterium infantis and the enteric coating you describe?

    • says

      HI Rennie, Don’t worry about the “gross” part. There’s a lot of that around here :). I’ve written a page about peppermint oil: .

      As far as probiotics, there are some studies that say the best probiotic for IBS is bifidobacterium infantis strain 35624. The strain is important.

      Here is a science article on that if you need help sleeping: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16863564

      As far as brands, different brands of the same bacteria seem to work betthr for some people than others. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      That being said, here is what I’ve heard:

      Align is a probiotic brand that a lot of people swear by. Some drug stores sell it here in the USA. Sonia, made a comment here that it worked for her for a while, then stopped. I guess everyone is different.

      I’ve read a number of studies for this comment. The studies show it does help many people. The only product I’ve been able to find in the last half an hour or so that contains the bifidobacterium infantis strain 3562 (at least in quantity) is Align. The cheapest price I’ve seen for it is on Amazon.com.

      There are a lot of reviews on Amazon.com about the product, which may be helpful.

      Good luck Rennie. PLEASE let us know how YOU make out! Shawn

  10. says

    Read alot of comments about constipation but what about the other side of the coin. I take Probiotics and herbs. Was on medication, but there are so many side effect that go along with it, got scared and stopped. Some weeks are good and some bad. Checking into Enzymes now, maybe it will help with the digesting of food. Struggle with eating in the mornings and afternoons for some reason. Recently found out I’m allergic to wheat, which is in everything we eat. I too struggled with eating yogurt but now I eat it before bedtime and changed to Organic kind. Kroger has great Organic yogurts in there Natural Food Section :)

    • says

      Hello Elaine, I answer all kinds of comments here. Some people have IBS-D, some have IBS-C (the constipation kind). I do notice a lot of IBS-D folks though. Maybe that’s because of the pages that are popular here.

      That being said (typed), I know 2 people that have shared their stories. These are friends of mine. One of them goes once a month or so, which I can scarcely believe!!! The other one is about once a week. The second one actually passes out from the pain.

      Now, I shy away from making recommendations, as I think people need to make their own choices, but I’ve long heard of cascara sagrada as an herb that helps with constipation. I’ve never needed it, and I haven’t written about it yet, so here’s a link http://altmedicine.about.com/od/completeazindex/a/cascara.htm

      If you decide to try it, please let us know how you make out! – Shawn

  11. Winter says

    Five years ago I started taking probiotics recommended by my doctor. Eventually it would stop working resulting to switching to different brands. Now my body doesn’t respond to probiotics at all. This has resulted to weight gain, gas, and bloating. I have been to several doctors including GI specialists. However, nothing is helping me. I exercise daily and eat as healthy as possible yet I cannot loose weight or combat the chronic bloating. I don’t know what else to do. When my body responded to the probiotics my weight was great and I was 320 pounds lighter. I am frustrated and devastated by this. Why did my body become immune to probiotics? They only cause more bloating.

    • Winter says

      Correction. I was 20 pounds lighter when probiotics worked. I went from 160lbs to 180lbs and cannot loose it. I have been tested negative for hyperthyroidism.

  12. Roxanne says

    Hi Shawn,

    Just found your site and think it’s great. I’ve battled IBS off and on for 17 years–seem to have it licked for years at a time, then it comes back. It is one mysterious lil bugger.

    So re probiotics, I also read about b. infantis, got some Align, and had the worst gas and bloating of my life. I know that was supposed to a transient side effect, but I couldn’t hack it. So next I tried Kefir, (has an assortment of flora, about 5 billion per tbsp noticed a huge improvement, then after many months the improvement was negated. Then I went back to probiotics–in order to get a bigger dose–and have one with various strains–not including infantis. Great results at first, then gradually disappeared.

    I am certainly better on it then on nothing, but it is not solving the problem entirely.

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