If you are dealing with Gastroparesis, please read my post: What is the best probiotic for Gastroparesis?

Probiotics are healthy bacteria that live in the lower gut and help you digest food as well as stave off infection. If something happens to them your digestive health will more than likely suffer. People with IBS may have an imbalance in their digestive system, the idea goes that correcting this imbalance will result in better health and recovery from IBS symptoms.

The main ways you can lose your healthy bacteria friends is through illness alone or treatment of illness with antibiotics. There seem to be a lot of people(like me) who suffer from IBS after a digestive ailment/infection, such as food poisoning or stomach flu.

Science has suggested that the appendix is where these bacteria hide when your system is flushing itself out. The bacteria should move back out into the regular gut and repopulate. Perhaps this does not happen with IBS sufferers or other problems prohibit the healthy re-population. Antibiotics are rather homicidal and will massacre anything(good or bad) in your gut. Thus taking a probiotic may help your system get back to normal faster or hopefully heal your system from years of imbalance.

There are many over the counter probiotics you can purchase. It can be hard to tell which ones are good ones. There was a probiotics report by Consumer Labs which tested the contents of some of the major brands out there. The tests did not cover their efficiency with regards to IBS. Unfortunately you have to sign-up and pay them to review the report, something I have not done, but perhaps I will entertain in the future if my search for the perfect probiotic turns up fruitless.

Helpful jargon:

  • CFU: Colony Forming Units. These are the soldiers that go into your lower gut and shack things up. More is not necessarily better, also the delivery method can be important. You may have 10 billion CFUs, but if they all die from your stomach acid before they hit where it counts then they’re not going to be of much use. This is why many probiotics are in pill form, with an ‘enteric’(isn’t destroyed by acid) or gel coating, or some powders are mixed with FOS(FructoOligoSaccharides)
  • FOS: FructoOligoSaccharides. Are sugars that resist digestion in the stomach. Probiotics eat these sugars later on in the gut, it’s suppose to help them flourish. FOS is not digestible though, thus they are similar to artificial sweeteners, like manitol or sorbitol. Since your body doesn’t absorb them, the process is left up to bacteria to chow down. Bacteria release gas as they breakdown the sugars. For some people this may not cause much problem, for others it does.
  • Bacteria Strains: Suggested strains are, L. bulgaricus, L. reuteri, L. plantarum, L. casei, B. bifidus, S. salivarius, and S. thermophilus and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii. For your information, “L.” = Lactobacillus, “B.” =  Bifidobacterium & “S.” = Streptococcus. There have been positive studies with regards also to B. infantisL. plantarum. So perhaps look especially for these strains when reviewing product information.

Part of my problems with taking probiotics may stem from lack of discipline. Taking too much too quickly, or trying to top on fiber at the same time. Pushing all that on my system at once may not be the best way to introduce your body to probiotics. I’d suggest for those starting out to look for a brand that has a low CFU count and is perhaps in a powder form so you can measure it out and take a small dose. You can later ramp up on a weekly basis. You could try a probiotic with FOS in it and see how it treats you, if it’s not so great then try switching to an enteric or gel tablet.

As for brands or products to suggest, that is something I’ll be working on. One of the hardest parts is tracking down a suitable product. You also get a lot of smoke and mirrors with fake websites out there to promote certain products, a lot of the health supplement industry is just as shady as big pharma, sometimes even more so. It can be hard to tell if all you’re getting is a snake oil product or if you’re paying too much for something.

Here are some brands I have tried: FloraSmart, Nature’s Way Primadophilus for Children(which has a low CFU & is in powdered form),Nature’s Way Primadophilus Junior(low CFU in pill form), Align Digestive Care Probiotic & Good Belly probiotic fruit drink. If you don’t have access to GoodBelly locally you can order some GoodBelly ToGo packets from Amazon.com. They’re all worth trying and your results may vary, some people respond better to different brands. If you’ve had success(or failure) with a certain product, please leave a comment.