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.
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.
Other relevant links:
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• 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?