Background: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of the most common functional gastroenterological diseases, affecting 11.2 % of people worldwide. Previous studies have shown that probiotic treatment may benefit IBS patients. However, the effect of probiotics and the appropriate type, dose, and treatment duration for IBS are still unclear. The aim of the current study was to assess the efficacy of different probiotic types, doses and treatment durations in IBS patients diagnosed by Rome III criteria via a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
Methods: Medline, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials up to October 2015 were searched. RCTs including comparisons between the effects of probiotics and placebo on IBS patients diagnosed by Rome III criteria were eligible. Dichotomous data were pooled to obtain the relative risk (RR) with a 95 % confidence interval (CI), whereas continuous data were pooled using a standardized mean difference (SMD) with a 95 % CI.
Results: Twenty-one RCTs were included in this meta-analysis. Probiotic therapy was associated with more improvement than placebo administration in overall symptom response (RR: 1.82, 95 % CI 1.27 to 2.60) and quality of life (QoL) (SMD: 0.29, 95 % CI 0.08 to 0.50), but not in individual IBS symptoms. Single probiotics, a low dose, and a short treatment duration were more effective with respect to overall symptom response and QoL. No differences were detected in individual IBS symptoms in the subgroup analyses.
Conclusion: Probiotics are an effective pharmacological therapy in IBS patients. Single probiotics at a low dose and with a short treatment duration appear to be more effective in improving overall symptom response and QoL, but more evidence for these effects is still needed.
Keywords: Irritable bowel syndrome; Meta-analysis; Probiotics.