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How to treat IBS with this dietary plan

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Prebiotics and probiotics combined could treat IBS symptoms

David Rakel, Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine; Director, University of Wisconsin Integrative Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health has some advice for treating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Based on study reviews, prebiotics and probiotics both keep the gut healthy. But combining the two can help IBS as well as chronic constipation. Here's how to get started.


Combining prebiotics with soluble fiber foods could be the best combination for treating irritable bowel syndrome suggests professor David Rakel,

Rakel looked at two separate studies recently published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology that looked at probiotic use and fiber separately for quelling symptoms of IBS that include bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain and inflammation associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

Prebiotics and fiber work together for IBS symptoms

The first thing is to know is that prebiotics are necessary to help probiotics live and reproduce to keep the gut healthy.

In the recent study review researchers found a twenty-one percent boosts in therapeutic response with probiotics for IBS treatment compared to placebo.

The investigation did not reveal which probiotics were most beneficial but several were helpful including Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces (a yeast), Streptococcus, and Escherichia coli that is normally found in the gut and important for maintaining intestinal health.

Fiber and probiotics act synergistically

Psyllium that is a plant based fiber was found in a separate study to improve symptoms of irritable

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Dr. Rakel, commenting on the study findings, explains using both prebiotics and probiotics may be the best way to keep the gut healthy - even for those not diagnosed with IBS who might be plagued with chronic constipation.

Rakel tells us that fermentation from the combination of soluble plant fiber and probiotics produces a synergy that leads to fermentation. In turn, fermentation produces short-chain fatty acids that provide energy to the cells in the colon to keep inflammation at bay.

Fatty-acids also help heal the gut lining.

Healthy guts benefit too

For chronic constipation and to treat IBS symptoms Rakel says: :

  • Consider a probiotic containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium at a minimum dose of 108 CFU (colony forming units) per day for one month. Then to keep the colon healthy eat yogurt, sauerkraut, miso and other fermented foods
  • For one month take 1 Tbsp of Psyllium in 8–10 oz of water one to two times daily. After a month make sure to eat foods high in soluble fiber from fruits, vegetables and high fiber grains.
  • Dr. Rakel also says it’s important to eliminate stress that can be a triggter for IBS. “Don’t forget the mind-body connection,” Rakel says, that is important for wellness.


Ford AC, Quigley EM, Lacy BE, et al. Efficacy of prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics in irritable bowel syndrome and chronic idiopathic constipation: systematic review and meta-analysis [published online ahead of print July 29, 2014]. Am J Gastroenterol. doi:10.1038/ajg.2014.202.

Moayyedi P, Quigley EM, Lacy BE, et al. The effect of fiber supplementation on irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis [published online ahead of print July 29, 2014]. Am J Gastroenterol. doi:10.1038/ajg.2014.195.

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