Background: Gut microflora-mucosal interactions may be involved in the pathogenesis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Aim: To investigate the efficacy of a novel prebiotic trans-galactooligosaccharide in changing the colonic microflora and improve the symptoms in IBS sufferers.
Methods: In all, 44 patients with Rome II positive IBS completed a 12-week single centre parallel crossover controlled clinical trial. Patients were randomized to receive either 3.5 g/d prebiotic, 7 g/d prebiotic or 7 g/d placebo. IBS symptoms were monitored weekly and scored according to a 7-point Likert scale. Changes in faecal microflora, stool frequency and form (Bristol stool scale) subjective global assessment (SGA), anxiety and depression and QOL scores were also monitored.
Results: The prebiotic significantly enhanced faecal bifidobacteria (3.5 g/d P < 0.005; 7 g/d P < 0.001). Placebo was without effect on the clinical parameters monitored, while the prebiotic at 3.5 g/d significantly changed stool consistency (P < 0.05), improved flatulence (P < 0.05) bloating (P < 0.05), composite score of symptoms (P < 0.05) and SGA (P < 0.05). The prebiotic at 7 g/d significantly improved SGA (P < 0.05) and anxiety scores (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: The galactooligosaccharide acted as a prebiotic in specifically stimulating gut bifidobacteria in IBS patients and is effective in alleviating symptoms. These findings suggest that the prebiotic has potential as a therapeutic agent in IBS.