Gut-brain axis: Multi-strain probiotic holds potential for IBS symptom relief 


12 Jun 2018 --- A multi-strain probiotic supplement has resulted in strong symptom reductions in those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome – diarrhea (IBS-D), a study conducted at the University of Bangabandhu Sheikh Medical University in Bangladesh has found. The 14 strains of “gut-friendly” bacteria in the supplement – Bio-Kult – were also found to reduce anxiety, tapping into the growing space of gut-brain axis products.

“IBS is a significant problem that decreases quality of life and places an enormous economic burden on healthcare systems globally. In the UK alone as many as 8 million of us suffer with this chronic condition. A safe and convenient IBS treatment that is capable of reducing pain by nearly 70 percent, not to mention completely resolving symptoms in more than a third of patients, demonstrates a profound benefit and holds great promise for this major medical concern,” says Dr Ashton Harper, Head of Medical Affairs, Protexin Healthcare, manufacturers of Bio-Kult.

IBS is a common disorder that can include symptoms such as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. The study is said to be the “largest ever” double-blind, randomized controlled trial of live bacteria supplements in IBS-D type patients.

Of the 360 patients who had IBS, with diarrhea as their predominant symptom, those who took the probiotic supplement reported a 69 percent decrease in abdominal pain, compared to 47 percent in a group who took a placebo.

Furthermore, the number of patients who rated their symptoms as moderate to severe at the beginning of the study was reduced by 86 percent, compared to only 52 percent in those who took a placebo.

Significantly, as well as relieving IBS-D symptoms, the supplement was also shown to markedly improve all aspects of Quality of Life (QoL) evaluated using as 34 point IBS-QoL questionnaire. These included psychological issues such as anxiety about health, Click to Enlargedepression, lack of enjoyment of life and feelings of having to avoid stressful situations. IBS is commonly coupled with anxiety, with the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse estimating that of those suffering from IBS, 50-90 percent have a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety disorder or depression.

Interestingly, the findings regarding anxiety were not a planned aim of the study, but a “positive effect of the probiotic,” Dr. S. M. Ishaque Shamsuddin, author of the study tells NutritionInsight.

Experts weigh in
Dr. Philip Burnet, Associate Professor at Oxford University and a UK expert on the gut microbiome/ brain axis, says that although several symptoms within the IBS-QoL survey in the study were significantly improved after taking probiotic supplements, the reduction in dysphoria (unease or generalized dissatisfaction) and health worries were particularly noteworthy.

“The influence of gut bacteria on the brain is a topical area of research in neuroscience and the microbiome-gut-brain-axis is considered a potential therapeutic pathway for brain disorders,” says Dr. Burnet. “Using probiotics that influence brain function, or the so-called ‘psychobiotics,’ may in the future help alleviate conditions such as depression and anxiety.”

“Indeed, there is a strong link between depression and IBS and some researchers have suggested that mood disorders themselves may arise from dysbiosis (a microbial imbalance within the body such as within the gut).”

Dr. Burnet references another recent study by the University of Cork that demonstrated that a single-strain probiotic, Bifidobacterium logum, reduced depression scores in 22 IBS patients.

“Importantly, the Bio-Kult formulation not only contains Bifidobacterium longum but also several other probiotic strains that have been reported to have psychotropic effects in both mouse models of anxiety and depressed mood and in preliminary human studies,” he adds.

“Therefore, the current trial not only demonstrated the therapeutic effects of Bio-Kult in IBS, but has also alluded to its possible anxiety-lowering effects by reducing the incidence of health worries, social reactions and body image issues in participants.”

Professor Glenn Gibson, Professor of Food Microbiology at the University of Reading says that few effective therapies for IBS exist and it was extremely encouraging to see the positive results of the Bio-Kult study: “The mechanism of action is likely to be positive influences of the probiotic on gut microbiology – known to be both positive and negative for health. This user-friendly and safe approach offers new hope for millions of IBS patients worldwide.”

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is known to affect individuals differently, meaning there is no one-size-all approach. A probiotic supplement that can tap into symptom alleviation for IBS-D patients and the anxiety or depression that commonly accompanies the disorder could hold strong potential for treatment. NutritionInsight has recently covered the microbiome innovations, including probiotics, that were on show at Vitafoods Europe 2018.

By Laxmi Haigh

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