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Probiotic Yogurt & Irritable Bowel Syndrome

author image Clay McNight
Clay McNight is currently a nutrition writer with Demand Media Studios.
Probiotic Yogurt & Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A small bowl of yogurt. Photo Credit: Nungning20/iStock/Getty Images

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, can be more than an annoyance for those who have this multisymptom condition, which can include constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating. Although the cause of IBS is unclear, researchers are now identifying methods for controlling it. Among these potential treatments are healthy bacteria, known as probiotics. Yogurt is one of the best dietary sources of probiotics.

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IBS Basics

According to Harvard Health Publications, irritable bowel syndrome may be related to the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is because, in addition to being produced in the brain, serotonin is also produced in the digestive tract. Harvard notes that either high or low levels of serotonin in the gut could cause the condition. Emotional health could also play a role in IBS. Stress and anxiety can worsen symptoms, while exercise, stress management and a healthy diet can prove useful in the treatment of IBS.

Probiotics for IBS

Probiotics can be found in various whole foods, with yogurt among the most commonly consumed sources. Probiotics may be useful in restoring a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut, which could promote immune system health and ultimately improve IBS symptoms, according to Harvard. A study published in 2014 in the "Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology" concluded that common strains of probiotics, including lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, were effective in treating the symptoms of IBS.

Probiotic Strains in Yogurt

Yogurt contains both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Lactobacillus is used for general digestion problems, including Crohn's disease, inflammation of the colon and colic in babies, and bifidobacteria is used for preventing diarrhea in children, treating traveler's diarrhea and restoring good bacteria after radiation, chemotherapy or antibiotics. MedlinePlus has rated both of these strains of probiotics as "possibly effective" for the treatment of IBS symptoms.

Safety Considerations

While probiotics are likely safe, they can also cause the same symptoms they are being used to treat in some individuals, including upset stomach, gas and bloating. According to MedlinePlus, there is also some concern that probiotics, including lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, can grow too well in individuals with weakened immune systems, which could lead to other health issues.

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