Activia & Irritable Bowel Syndrome

bowl of yogurt
A bowel of yogurt with crackers and fresh blueberries on the table. (Image: Magone/iStock/Getty Images)

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a common digestive disorder affecting one in five Americans, notes the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The condition causes mild to severe digestive irregularity and discomfort. For most people, changes in dietary habits can help prevent symptom flareups. The Dannon Company markets a probiotic-containing yogurt called Activia and claims this product can help regulate your digestive system. However, you should consult your physician before self-treating with supplemental dietary products.

About IBS

The large intestine, or colon, is the lower portion of your digestive system impacted by IBS. The colon is responsible for absorbing water from partially digested food and storing stool for later elimination. Muscles lining the intestinal walls contract and relax to move food through your body but when you have IBS these contractions tend to be stronger or last longer than normal. Food either gets forced through your intestine too quickly, resulting in bloating, gas and diarrhea, or food passage is slow and you become constipated. The cause of IBS is unknown but this condition is not linked to later cancer development or other digestive problems. Food, stress or hormonal changes can trigger IBS but do not cause the condition.

Activia

Activia yogurt contains the probiotic live culture Bifidobacterium lactis, which the Dannon Company renamed "Bifidus Regularis" for marketing purposes. According to the Activia website, this probiotic culture is found in large quantity in the yogurt and once eaten it helps to regulate your digestive system. A probiotic, or live microorganism, as a dietary supplement serves to increase the good bacteria in your colon, which already houses trillions of good bacteria on its own. Good bacteria help fight off disease-causing microorganisms that may increase your risk of digestive problems like IBS.

Activia Effectiveness for IBS

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the Dannon Company cannot claim that use of Activia relieves irregularity or intestinal transit time because the company does not have clinically relevant or substantiated research to back up health claims. A proposed settlement between the FTC and Dannon makes the exception that the health claim can be marketed if the advertisement indicates consumers must eat three servings of Activia daily to get the digestive benefit or if two valid human clinical studies confirm health claims. A 2009 study published by "Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics" is the first clinical research to objectively measure the use of Activia in people with IBS. The study supports this probiotic-containing yogurt for IBS symptom reduction but ongoing research is needed to further validate Activia health benefits.

IBS Diet Tips

The addition of Activia to your daily diet may help regulate your bowels, but consult your physician for recommendations on this and other dietary changes. No specific diet for IBS exists, but you can discover the foods that work best for you by keeping a food journal to note what causes distress. Daily consumption of fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains can relieve constipation but will not necessarily prevent abdominal pain or diarrhea. Too much fiber in the diet can increase gas and bloating. Limit consumption of sodas or carbonated beverages, which can cause gas and discomfort. Drink plenty of water daily, eat small meals frequently and choose lean meat like fish or poultry.

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