The intestinal microbiota and probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome

  • Jennifer Madden


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood gastrointestinal condition affecting approximately onefifth of the UK population, with a higher prevalence in women and accounting for up to half of referrals to gastroenterology clinics in the UK. It is characterized by abdominal pain, excessive flatus, variable bowel habit and abdominal bloating with no evidence of organic disease. IBS commonly occurs after gastroenteritis or following a course of antibiotics. Suggested aetiologies include motility and psychological disorders and psychophysiological phenomena, although there is also evidence that disruption to the intestinal microbiota can play a role in IBS. Episodes such as hysterectomy, first incidence of bacterial gastroenteritis or a course of antibiotics have been shown to contribute to symptoms compatible with those of IBS. The intestinal microflora in IBS has been shown to differ from that of healthy individuals. Faecal microfloras of IBS patients har bour higher numbers of facultative organisms, such as Klebsiella spp. and enterococci, and low numbers of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. The role of probiotics in IBS has not been clearly defined. Some studies have shown improvements in pain and flatulence in response to probiotic supplementation, while others have shown no symptomatic or objective improvements. Administration of probiotics reduced caecal and faecal yeast proliferation in IBS patients treated with antibiotics, suggesting that they prevent the disruption of the intestinal microbiota known to be associated with IBS. It is possible that the role of probiotics in the management of IBS will lie in prevention, rather than cure. Keywords: IBS; microflora; probiotics


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How to Cite
Madden J. (2004). The intestinal microbiota and probiotics in irritable bowel syndrome. Food & Nutrition Research, 32-36.