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Probiotics, take a bowel!

The new recommendations from the American College of Gastroenterology include probiotics to treat irritable bowel syndrome.

Probiotics received an official boost from the American College of Gastroenterology, whose physicians included them in their list of recommended treatments for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

The new recommendations were published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology and noted in the Boston Globe.

Irritable bowel syndrome affects at least 10 percent to 15 percent of American adults. Only the common cold causes more people to miss work, according to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders.

“We’re not moving away from drug therapies to manage symptoms,” Dr. Anthony Lembo, a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and co-author of the new recommendations, told the Globe. “But we’re also starting to recommend certain diets and supplements that have been tested in clinical trials.” Those supplements include probiotics and fiber (psyllium).

Research supports the use of probiotics to ease the symptoms of IBS, said co-author Dr. Eamonn Quigley, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Houston Methodist Hospital, in a story on The guidelines did not recommend specific strains of the bugs, however. "We need more studies comparing doses and preparations, and there hasn't been a lot of that done," he said. Still, probiotics are safe and patients tolerate them well, he noted.

The guidelines also recommend antidepressants to treat IBS. On a related note, a recent University of Michigan study suggested probiotics may help stress-related gastrointestinal disorders. Though stress doesn't cause irritable bowel syndrome, the study showed it does mess with brain-gut reactions enough to kick off the intestinal inflammation that often leads to chronic belly pain, loss of appetite, diarrhea and other unpleasantness.

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