Can Dietary Supplements Help People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

The problem: People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)—far more are women than men—suffer chronic abdominal pain and discomfort, along with diarrhea, constipation, or both, with no apparent physical explanation.

What may help: Bifidobacterium infantis 35624.

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The evidence: In two company-funded trials, B. infantis 35624—which is only available in Procter & Gamble’s Align—had some success in relieving IBS symptoms.

In one, 362 women in the UK with mild to moderate IBS were given one of three daily doses—1 million, 100 million, or 10 billion live cells—or a placebo. After four weeks, those taking the 100 million reported less abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and straining and greater relief of IBS symptoms than the placebo takers. (After the study ended, the researchers discovered that the capsules containing 10 billion cells didn’t dissolve properly, which may explain why the higher dose didn’t work.)

In the other trial, in 75 Irish men and women diagnosed with mild IBS, those who were given 10 billion live cells a day for eight weeks reported significantly less pain, discomfort, bloating, and irregularity than those who took a placebo. The probiotic takers began to feel relief by the end of the first week.

P&G claims that healthy people would also benefit from taking Align. But in the company’s own study (which it never published), Align was no better than a placebo at lessening abdominal discomfort and bloating in 148 middle-aged men and women who hadn’t been diagnosed with IBS.

The bottom line: If you have IBS and are willing to spend roughly $30 a month, Align is worth a try.

Sources: Am. J. Gastroenterol. 101: 1581, 2006; Gastroenterology 128: 541, 2005.

Align Probiotic

Other relevant links:

• Does glucosamine help alleviate arthritic pain? See: Dietary Supplements: Glucosamine and Arthritis

• Can dietary supplements help with an enlarged prostate? See: Dietary Supplements: Pygeum Africanum May Help with an Enlarged Prostate

• Zinc lozenges may be helpful when you have a cold. See: Is Zinc Effective Against Colds?

3 Replies to “Can Dietary Supplements Help People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome?”

  1. I have IBS – as well as gluten & lactose intolerance which often accompanies IBS – and tried this product Align for several months before i reading the label closely enough to realize that these capsules contain MILK. So I quit taking them and immediately felt much, much better – less bloated and generally more energetic. I was amazed and flabergasted that this manufacturer put MILK in a product for IBS sufferers! what were they thinking….?

  2. What is difference between infantis 35624 and infantis SD-5845? “Leader” makes this product (available at Doc’s Drugs, about $10 or more less than Align, and has 10mg in it, compared to 4mg of Align’s. What’s the difference between the two strains?

    1. From Nutrition Action Healthletter: The two strains are related, but, as far as we can tell, SD-5845 has not been tested for its effect on irritable bowel syndrome (or the results haven’t been made public). So it may or it may not have some of the same benefits as Align and its infantis 35624. Manufacturers use SD-5845, no doubt, as a less expensive competitor to infantis 35624. It’s cheaper partly because it hasn’t undergone expensive testing.

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