New research is offering insight into how an unexpected natural medication, peppermint, is helping patients relieve their symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Continue reading
In a past blog about probiotics, I told you, “Friendly Bacteria (Probiotics) Help Calm Colicky Babies and May Help Constipated Babies.” Now, an Italian study is suggesting that a daily dose of “friendly bacteria” (probiotics) could provide relief for kids suffering from the cruel pain of a CHRONIC tummy ache. Here are the details from a report in Reuters Health:
Yet little evidence exists to date for helpful medications or dietary changes, Dr. Ruggiero Francavilla of the University of Bari, in Italy, told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
Given recent research hinting at the therapeutic value of probiotics for adults with stomach problems, particularly a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome that can cause pain and abnormal bowel movements, Francavilla and his team wanted to see if good bacteria might benefit kids too.
The team studied 141 Italian children between the ages of 5 and 14 suffering from chronic belly pain, mostly resulting from irritable bowel syndrome. They randomly assigned each child to daily doses of either a common strain of probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG, or a placebo that looked and tasted similar, for eight weeks.
At the end of the treatment period, L. rhamnosus GG appeared to reduce the frequency and intensity of the kids’ stomach pain, report the researchers in the journal Pediatrics.
While both groups averaged about four stomach aches per week prior to the study, frequencies reduced to about one per week for kids taking the probiotics and two per week for those on the placebo. Based on a 10-point scale, with 10 being worst, the average level of pain reported before treatment was 4.3 in both groups.
These scores dropped to 2.3 and 3.4, respectively, for kids in the treatment and placebo groups. Further, the researchers found that the effects of the probiotic lasted at least another eight weeks beyond completion of the study treatment.
Although they note that the probiotic’s pain-relieving benefits could still wane and require repeated use to maintain the effect. L. rhamnosus GG is widely available at drug stores and sold online, generally costing less than a dollar per daily dose.
“Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG is one of the best-studied probiotic bacteria in clinical trials for treating and preventing several intestinal disorders and is widely available in different countries,” said Francavilla.
He added that his team conducted the study with kids recruited through their pediatricians in a wide range of communities in southern Italy, so the results could be applicable to the general population.
No other strain of probiotic is currently a valid alternative for this particular condition, Francavilla noted. “Probiotics are not all the same and should not be used deliberately for all the possible indications; we are entering the era of targeted probiotic use,” he said.
To fully achieve the specific stomach ache-reducing benefit of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Francavilla advises taking the probiotic long-term or for at least eight weeks.
ConsumerLab.com selected thirteen probiotic products sold in the U.S. and/or Canada. Some products only listed the amount of organisms that were viable when the product was manufactured and not through the expiration date. This labeling practice is not typically employed with other types of supplements and can mislead consumers when a diminished amount is actually in the product at time of use. One of the products selected by ConsumerLab.com (Kashi Vive) did not list any amount of organisms.
Among the products selected by ConsumerLab.com, only two (Advocare Probiotic Restore and Udo’s Choice Adult Formula) were found to accurately list the number of cells that were viable at the time they were tested. Other products were found to contain as little as 7% to 58% of the amount listed on their labels.
The ConsumerLab report lists several brands of probiotics that passed quality testing and also contain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.
In the category of a study that will change my practice in the area of giving patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) another treatment option, is a study discussed in a Los Angeles Times report that says, “A two-week treatment with an antibiotic” manufactured by Salix Pharmaceuticals “can ease overall symptoms in many patients with irritable bowel syndrome for at least 10 weeks and perhaps for much longer, according to a pair of clinical trials of more than 1,200 patients.”
The paper appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that the “proportion of patients who benefited — about 11% — was modest, but the fact that any at all were helped validated the idea that intestinal bacteria play a role in the onset of irritable bowel syndrome, commonly known as IBS.”
Lead study author Dr. Mark Pimentel, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, added, “This is the culmination of a 10-year journey in proving that gut bacteria are a cause of IBS.” Before, “there has been a lot of skepticism, a lot of criticism.”
Salix executive Bill Forbes told the Raleigh News & Observer, “With IBS, even though it is such a common condition, no one really understands why patients have symptoms.”
The executive added, “It becomes a condition that is diagnosed by exclusion. But the economic costs rank right up there with the worst medical conditions there are. It has an enormous impact on individuals and society as whole.”
With that in mind, the company sponsored two trials in which 1,260 patients received either “Xifaxan (generic name = rifaximin) three times a day for two weeks” or placebo, Bloomberg News reports. “The patients were followed for 10 weeks after treatment.”
Investigators eventually noted that a “total of 41 percent of those getting the drug had relief in at least two of the first four weeks after therapy, compared with 32 percent of people treated with a placebo.”
What’s more, the “study confirmed that the condition in some patients can be explained by the movement of bacteria from the colon into the small intestines.”
So, if you suffer from IBS and few or no treatments have been helpful, then you may want to discuss this one with your physician. However, be warned, the two week treatment could cost several hundred dollars!
St. John’s wort (SJW) is most commonly used to improve mood and treat depression. St. John’s wort affects neurotransmitters similar to conventional antidepressants. However, it also affects serotonin receptors in the gut, similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) drugs such as alosetron (Lotronex).
Many IBS patients are now trying St. John’s wort. But new research is discouraging. It shows that taking a specific St. John’s wort extract (St. John’s Wort Extract Extra Strength, Enzymatic Therapy) 450 mg twice daily is no more effective than placebo for reducing symptoms after 12 weeks of treatment. In fact, some patients did worse on St. John’s wort compared to placebo.
The experts at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database tell physicians, “For now, explain to IBS patients that St. John’s wort doesn’t appear to be a good choice.”