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Nutrition, Science

Probiotics And Managing Medically-Diagnosed IBS

Written by: Victoria Hanlon
Senior Writer

Probiotics and irritable bowel syndrome

Probiotics are a hot topic at the moment and the good news is that, along with their many health benefits, there’s evidence to suggest they can help relieve the symptoms of medically-diagnosed IBS. Learn more about the role probiotics may play in relieving medically diagnosed IBS symptoms.

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic disease that affects 7-21% of people worldwide[1]. Symptoms include abdominal pain or discomfort, gas, constipation and diarrhea. The exact causes are uncertain, but it is known that eating certain foods[2] and stress[3] can trigger or exacerbate symptoms. While IBS can be inconvenient and upsetting, it doesn’t cause any long-term damage and isn’t currently linked to any more serious illnesses[4].

IBS, is that you?

Medically diagnosing IBS is a process of evaluating symptoms and eliminating other possible conditions, as there isn’t a definitive test for it yet. Signs to look for are abdominal pain at least one day per week for three months, along with a combination of other symptoms, such as painful bowel movements and a change in bowel frequency[5]. Your doctor will consider IBS once other potential conditions have been ruled out.

Managing and relieving symptoms of IBS

As there isn’t a cure for medically-diagnosed IBS, the focus is on managing symptoms to enable you to live a healthy life. You should be able to relieve mild to moderate symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes[3], such as:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Eating high-fibre foods
  • Regular exercise
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Minimising stress

You can also try eliminating foods that trigger symptoms – you can work with your doctor and dietitian to identify and manage them.

Medically-diagnosed IBS probiotic support

The good news is that there’s evidence to suggest that taking a probiotic may also help with medically-diagnosed IBS. Probiotics are specific live bacteria and yeast strains, which help maintain gut health. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir, and some dairy products like certain yoghurts, are good sources of probiotics. You can also consider taking probiotics in a supplement format.

Given that probiotics help to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system, they have been shown to help relieve some of the symptoms associated with medically diagnosed IBS[6], such as:

  • Reducing abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Decreasing abdominal bloating
  • Relieving constipation and diarrhea, and supporting bowel regularity

When selecting a probiotic, it’s advisable to choose one that is specifically designed for medically diagnosed IBS support, such as Swisse Ultibiotic Daily IBS Probiotic. This contains the bacteria strain lactobacillus plantarum 299V, which individuals experiencing medically-diagnosed IBS typically have lower levels of in their gut[7]. Taking a probiotic which contains that strain can help support an overall healthy gut.

This supplement may not be right for you. Read the warnings before purchase, which can be found on the label. If symptoms worsen or change unexpectedly, talk to your healthcare professional. Follow the directions for use.



  1. McKenzie YA, Bowyer RK, Leach H, et al. British Dietetic Association systematic review and evidence-based practice guidelines for the dietary management of irritable bowel syndrome in adults (2016 update). J Hum Nutr Diet. 2016;29(5):549-575. doi:10.1111/jhn.12385
  2. Monsbakken KW, Vandvik PO, Farup PG. Perceived food intolerance in subjects with irritable bowel syndrome-- etiology, prevalence and consequences. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006;60(5):667-672. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602367
  3. Saha L. Irritable bowel syndrome: pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and evidence-based medicine. World J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(22):6759-6773. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i22.6759
  4. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs
  5. Schmulson MJ, Drossman DA. What Is New in Rome IV. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2017;23(2):151-163. doi:10.5056/jnm16214
  6. Dai C, Zheng CQ, Jiang M, Ma XY, Jiang LJ. Probiotics and irritable bowel syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2013;19(36):5973-5980. doi:10.3748/wjg.v19.i36.5973
  7. Hong SN, Rhee PL. Unraveling the ties between irritable bowel syndrome and intestinal microbiota. World J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(10):2470-2481. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i10.2470

Victoria Hanlon - Senior Writer

Nutrition, Science