Effects of Prebiotics vs a Diet Low in FODMAPs in Patients With Functional Gut Disorders

Gastroenterology. 2018 Oct;155(4):1004-1007. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.06.045. Epub 2018 Jun 30.


Prebiotics and diets low in fermentable oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyols (low-FODMAP diet) might reduce symptoms in patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders, despite reports that some nonabsorbable, fermentable meal products (prebiotics) provide substrates for colonic bacteria and thereby increase gas production. We performed a randomized, parallel, double-blind study of patients with functional gastrointestinal disorders with flatulence. We compared the effects of a prebiotic supplement (2.8 g/d Bimuno containing 1.37 g beta-galactooligosaccharide) plus a placebo (Mediterranean-type diet (prebiotic group, n = 19) vs a placebo supplement (2.8 g xylose) plus a diet low in FODMAP (low-FODMAP group, n = 21) for 4 weeks; patients were then followed for 2 weeks. The primary outcome was effects on composition of the fecal microbiota, analyzed by 16S sequencing. Secondary outcomes were intestinal gas production and digestive sensations. After 4 weeks, we observed opposite effects on microbiota in each group, particularly in relation to the abundance of Bifidobacterium sequences (increase in the prebiotic group and decrease in the low-FODMAP group; P = .042), and Bilophila wadsworthia (decrease in the prebiotic group and increase in the low-FODMAP group; P = .050). After 4 weeks, both groups had statistically significant reductions in all symptom scores, except reductions in flatulence and borborygmi were not significant in the prebiotic group. Although the decrease in symptoms persisted for 2 weeks after patients discontinued prebiotic supplementation, symptoms reappeared immediately after patients discontinued the low-FODMAP diet. Intermittent prebiotic administration might therefore be an alternative to dietary restrictions for patients with functional gut symptoms. ClinicalTrials.gov no.: NCT02210572.

Keywords: Functional Intestinal Disorders; Intestinal Gas; Microbiota.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Diet, Carbohydrate-Restricted* / adverse effects
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Europe
  • Fermentation*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / microbiology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Humans
  • Prebiotics* / adverse effects
  • Recurrence
  • Remission Induction
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Prebiotics

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02210572