Objectives: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of a probiotic combination on symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Methods: We investigated the efficiency of a probiotic dietary supplement, containing four strains of lactic acid bacteria, on symptoms of IBS. One hundred and sixteen patients with IBS fulfilling the Rome II criteria were randomized in a parallel group, double-blind study to receive a placebo or a probiotic combination (1 x 10(10) cfu once daily) for four weeks. The symptoms that were monitored weekly included discomfort, abdominal pain, and stool frequency and quality. Quality of life was assessed before and at the end of the treatment using the SF36 and FDD-quality-of-life questionnaires.
Results: One hundred subjects completed the study (48 probiotic combination, 52 placebo). The probiotic combination was not superior to the placebo in relieving symptoms of IBS (42.6 versus 42.3% improvement). However, the decrease of abdominal pain between the first and the fourth week of treatment was significantly higher in probiotic treated patients (-41.9 versus -24.2%, P=0.048). Interesting findings from the IBS sub-groups were also observed such as a lower pain score at end point in patients with alternating bowel habits (P=0.023) and an increase of stool frequency in the constipated sub-group from the first week of probiotic treatment (P=0.043).
Conclusions: The probiotic combination was not significantly superior to the placebo in relieving symptoms of IBS. Despite the apparent high placebo response, interesting findings from IBS sub-groups were observed in the field of abdominal pain and stool frequency.