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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Its cause is unknown. There is no accepted test for it. It comes and it goes. But irritable bowel syndrome or IBS is a condition that many people are living with. Estimates as range from 1-20% of the general population may be suffering from varying degrees of IBS.


IBS is also referred to as spastic colon, mucous colitis, spastic colitis, nervous stomach, or irritable colon. Symptoms include abdominal pain or discomfort is associated with a change in bowel pattern, such as loose or more frequent bowel movements, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Symptoms can range from mild, to moderate, to severe, and can be short term (months) or longer. A diagnosis of IBS can be difficult because patients may present two extremes of symptoms - loose watery stools for some patents, dry hard stools for other patents. Although IBS is not life threatening, the uncertainty of the onset of symptoms can affect the quality of life of sufferers.

IBS is a disease of the intestinal tract, but several mechanisms have been suggested as contributing to the syndrome including psychological factors, altered gut motility, heightened intestinal function, imbalance of neurotransmiters and infection. However, since the gastrointestinal tract is the site of the symptoms, there has been speculation that alteration of the intestinal bacterial population may in part be responsible

Several research groups have fed probiotic bacteria to alleviate the symptoms of IBS. Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and a mixture of 8 different bacteria have all been tested with varying degrees of success. Most studies have been short term and have not had many subjects. Also, because the symptoms of IBS are so difficult to define, demonstration of improvement due to treatment has often been difficult.

Diet appears to be an important factor in the occurrence and treatment of IBS. At this time, there is some evidence to show that the symptoms of IBS can be improved by altering the population of intestinal bacteria through the consumption of probiotic bacteria. However, more data is required before this becomes an accepted treatment of IBS.

  1. Typical Symptoms of IBS (
  2. Abnormal stool frequency (more frequent than normal, less frequent than normal)
  3. abnormal stool form or consistency (very watery or very hard)
  4. abnormal stool passage (strained feeling or sense of uncontrolled urgency)
  5. passage of mucus
  6. bloating or feeling of abdominal distension


Gut bacteria and health foods—the European perspective
Journal of Food Microbiology. 78: 99-117, 2002

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