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Probiotics for symptom management of IBS and bowel health

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 6 minutes read

Probiotics have garnered significant attention in recent years for their potential to manage various gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. Amidst the ever-expanding array of health supplements, probiotics stand out for their purported ability to rebalance the gut microbiota, the complex community of microorganisms residing in the intestines. In this article, we delve into the efficacy of probiotics in alleviating specific symptoms, starting with diarrhea.

We explore the evidence supporting their use in both prevention and treatment, highlighting recommended strains and dosages for optimal outcomes. Furthermore, we examine their role in addressing constipation and bloating, shedding light on the mechanisms through which probiotics may exert their beneficial effects.

Through a comprehensive review of research findings, we aim to provide clarity on the potential benefits of probiotics for symptom management and offer guidance on selecting suitable strains for individual needs.

Probiotics for symptom management: diarrhea

Diarrhea is a common gastrointestinal symptom characterized by frequent, loose, or watery stools. Various factors can cause it, including infections, medication side effects, dietary changes, or underlying health conditions. While often resolving on its own, diarrhea can be uncomfortable and disruptive to daily life. Probiotics, beneficial bacteria that support gut health, have garnered attention for their potential to prevent and treat diarrhea effectively.

Efficacy of Probiotics in Preventing and Treating Diarrhea

Numerous studies have investigated the role of probiotics in managing diarrhea, with compelling evidence suggesting their efficacy in certain cases. Probiotics restore balance to the gut microbiota, enhance the body's natural defense mechanisms, and combat harmful pathogens.

Probiotics have shown promise in reducing the duration and severity of symptoms for infectious diarrhea, such as that caused by viruses or bacteria. Research indicates that specific strains, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii, are particularly effective. These probiotics can help shorten the duration of diarrhea episodes and alleviate associated discomfort.

Moreover, probiotics may also be beneficial in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea, a common side effect of antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics can disrupt gut-bacteria balance, leading to diarrhea due to overgrowth of harmful microbes. By replenishing beneficial bacteria, probiotics can help maintain microbial equilibrium and reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Recommended Strains and Dosages

When considering probiotics for diarrhea management, it is essential to choose strains that have been extensively studied and shown efficacy in clinical trials. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, commonly known as LGG, is a strain widely supported by research for alleviating diarrhea symptoms.

For infectious diarrhea, a dosage of LGG ranging from 1 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) per day has been recommended for children and adults. Similarly, Saccharomyces boulardii, a yeast-based probiotic, has demonstrated efficacy in reducing the duration of diarrhea episodes. Dosages typically range from 250 to 500 milligrams per day for adults and may vary for children based on age and weight.

It's important to note that the efficacy of probiotics may vary depending on factors such as the underlying cause of diarrhea, individual health status, and the specific strain used. Consulting with your pharmacist or doctor is advisable to determine the most appropriate probiotic regimen for individual needs.

Probiotics offer a promising approach to managing diarrhea, whether caused by infections, antibiotic use, or other factors. By restoring balance to the gut microbiota and enhancing immune function, probiotics can help alleviate symptoms and promote gastrointestinal health. When selecting probiotics for managing diarrhea, evidence-based strains and appropriate dosages are key to maximizing their effectiveness.

Probiotics for constipation

Constipation, a common digestive issue affecting people of all ages, can significantly impact one's quality of life. Characterized by infrequent bowel movements, difficulty passing stools, and a sense of incomplete evacuation, constipation often arises due to various factors, including dietary habits, lifestyle choices, and underlying medical conditions. In addressing this concern, the role of probiotics in promoting regular bowel movements emerges as a promising avenue for alleviating discomfort and restoring gut balance.

Understanding Constipation

Before delving into the potential benefits of probiotics, it's essential to grasp the mechanisms underlying constipation. While the exact cause may vary from individual to individual, several contributing factors can disrupt the normal rhythm of bowel movements. These may include insufficient dietary fiber intake, inadequate fluid consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, certain medications, and medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or hypothyroidism.

Promoting Regularity with Probiotics

Probiotics, often called "good" or "friendly" bacteria, are vital in maintaining gut health and overall well-being. These live microorganisms, commonly found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, as well as in dietary supplements, exert beneficial effects on the digestive system. While the specific strains and dosages may vary, emerging research suggests that certain probiotics can help alleviate symptoms of constipation and promote regular bowel movements.

Mechanisms of Action

The potential mechanisms through which probiotics aid in relieving constipation are different. Firstly, these beneficial bacteria contribute to the balance of gut microbiota, influencing various aspects of digestive function, including motility and stool consistency. By modulating the microbial composition of the intestines, probiotics help create an environment conducive to optimal bowel health.

Moreover, probiotics may enhance intestinal transit time, the duration it takes for food to move through the digestive tract, thereby reducing the likelihood of stool becoming hardened and difficult to pass. Additionally, certain probiotic strains have been shown to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which promote intestinal motility and maintain the integrity of the intestinal barrier.

Evidence-Based Recommendations to Help with Constipation

While a growing body of research supports the efficacy of probiotics in alleviating constipation, it's important to note that not all strains may exert the same effects. When considering probiotic supplementation for constipation management, opt for strains with demonstrated efficacy, such as Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 and Lactobacillus casei Shirota. Furthermore, adhering to recommended dosages and incorporating probiotic-rich foods into a balanced diet can contribute to long-term digestive health. Consulting with your pharmacist or doctor is advisable to determine the most appropriate probiotic regimen for individual needs.

Probiotics for symptom management: bloating relief

Bloating, that uncomfortable feeling of fullness and tightness in the abdomen, is a common complaint affecting people of all ages. While occasional bloating is normal, persistent or severe bloating can significantly impact one's quality of life. Fortunately, emerging research suggests that probiotics may relieve bloating and gas.

Effects of Probiotics on Reducing Bloating and Gas

Bloating occurs when excess gas builds up in the digestive system, leading to discomfort and distension. Probiotics, the beneficial bacteria residing in our gut, have been investigated for their potential to alleviate bloating by restoring balance to the gut microbiota and improving digestive function.

Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of certain probiotic strains in reducing bloating and gas symptoms. For instance, a meta-analysis published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found that probiotic supplementation significantly reduced bloating and abdominal distension in individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition often characterized by bloating as a prominent symptom.

Research Findings and Recommended Strains for bloating

Among the probiotic strains studied for their efficacy in reducing bloating, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis have shown promising results. These strains help break down indigestible carbohydrates, reducing gas production and bloating.

In a randomized controlled trial published in Nutrition Journal, participants who received a combination of L. acidophilus and B. lactis experienced a significant reduction in bloating frequency and severity compared to those in the placebo group. Similarly, another European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences study reported that supplementation with B. lactis improved bloating and overall digestive comfort.

When considering probiotic supplementation for bloating relief, it's essential to choose strains backed by scientific evidence and to follow recommended dosages. While individual responses may vary, a typical dosage ranges from 1 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFUs) daily, depending on the strain and formulation.


In conclusion, probiotics offer a versatile approach to effectively managing digestive symptoms. For diarrhea, research supports their efficacy in both prevention and treatment, with specific strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardii demonstrating significant benefits. Recommended dosages typically range from 1 to 10 billion CFUs daily, depending on the strain and severity of symptoms. In addressing constipation, probiotics are vital in promoting regular bowel movements by increasing stool frequency and improving gut motility. Strains like Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus casei have shown promise in this regard.

Finally, certain strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis have effectively reduced symptoms of bloating and gas relief. While probiotics offer a promising avenue for digestive wellness, consulting healthcare professionals is crucial to tailor supplementation to individual needs. With ongoing research, probiotics remain valuable in promoting digestive health and improving overall well-being.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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