The Best Probiotic For Diarrhea And IBS: A Guide To Managing Symptoms

When you’re struggling with digestive issues such as diarrhea it can be hard to know where to begin. But the good news is, there’s an emerging evidence base for the role of probiotics in treating symptoms such as loose and frequent stools. Here we’ll explore which probiotic is best for treating diarrhea, as well as how to manage your symptoms so you can get on with enjoying your life.

Key Takeaways

  • Diarrhea, often caused by factors like gastrointestinal infections, dietary changes, antibiotic use, and conditions like IBS, can be managed with probiotics.
  • Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Saccharomyces Boulardii, Bifidobacterium Infantis, and Lactobacillus Acidophilus, can restore gut microbiome balance, reduce inflammation, strengthen the gut lining, and regulate bowel function.
  • Lifestyle changes like dietary modifications, staying hydrated, and reducing stress can also help manage diarrhea. It’s important to choose a high-quality probiotic product and consult with a healthcare practitioner for personalized advice.

Causes And Symptoms Of Diarrhea

Diarrhea can be defined as frequent, watery stools. Often you have an urgent desire to open your bowels and stools are not formed, but instead take on a liquid form.

Symptoms can range in severity and may be short-lived (acute) or longer-term (chronic). You may or may not experience other symptoms alongside diarrhea such as stomach cramping, gas, or bloating.

Whilst most people experience occasional loose stools as a result of traveling, a change in diet, or a temporary infection, for others – diarrhea is an annoyingly common occurrence. This might be because of a condition such as IBS or IBD.

The Main Causes Of Diarrhea

People with a diarrhea waiting at the toilet door

Diarrhea can be caused by a wide range of factors. Common examples include having a gastrointestinal infection which can cause symptoms of both vomiting and diarrhea.

This can include infections such as norovirus, as well as other GI tract infections such as E. coli or salmonella. Also, you might experience bouts of diarrhea when you have a virus such as the flu, or even covid – as many systemic infections also affect the gut temporarily.

You’ve probably heard of traveler’s diarrhea – which is when your gut is exposed to types of pathogens in the water or foods of foreign places which can lead to stomach upsets, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Probiotics are particularly good at helping with preventing and treating the occurrence of this common type of diarrhea. 

Aside from viral and bacterial infections, it’s also pretty common to experience loose stools during a course of antibiotics. This is because antibiotics, whilst essential for killing harmful pathogenic bacteria, also tend to eliminate the beneficial bacteria living in your gut. This can lead to a state of dysbiosis in your microbiome, with the result being diarrhea symptoms.

Issues such as IBS are a common culprit for diarrhea too. Here, you may experience predominantly loose stools, or this may alternate with periods of constipation if you have mixed IBS. IBS is a hypersensitivity within your gut environment that can be triggered when you eat high-FODMAP foods such as beans and onions.

For some people, their diarrhea results directly from specific foods. For example, for those with lactose intolerance, symptoms are a result of consuming too many high-lactose foods in a short period of time – as such individuals lack the relevant enzymes for the correct digestion of milk products.

For others – things like high-fat foods, alcohol, or spicy food can increase gut transit time leading to loose stools.

So, the first step when trying to manage diarrhea is to establish what is causing your symptoms so you can try to avoid your triggers as much as possible and prevent unnecessary flare-ups.

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How Probiotics Can Help With Diarrhea

Probiotics can help you to both prevent and treat diarrhea in a number of ways. This is because they address many of the key factors that can cause diarrhea in the first place.

Below are some of the main ways that probiotics can help with diarrhea.

Restoring Gut Microbiome Balance

One of the most common causes of diarrhea is an unbalanced gut microbiome. This means there is an overgrowth of pathogenic, harmful bacteria and a deficit of the more protective, beneficial kinds.

This can result from things like antibiotic overuse, poor diet, stress, insufficient fiber, certain medications (such as proton pump inhibitors), and some infections. If you don’t replenish the beneficial bacteria but instead continue to feed the pathogenic kind (they like to eat sugar and carbs and can multiply rapidly), then you will remain in this state of imbalance for some time.

So, you need to try and create a state where the beneficial bacteria can outnumber the bad, leading to their demise. The best way to do this is to introduce more live, probiotic bacteria into your diet.

The more the merrier in fact – because you want the ratio of positive bacteria to greatly outweigh the negative. This is because then the bad bacteria will be crowded out and will have less chance of thriving, multiplying, and causing general havoc in your gut.

Replenishing your gut microbiome is especially important when beneficial bacteria have been depleted following a gut infection of antibiotic cause.

So, even if you don’t routinely take a maintenance probiotic as part of your daily routine – do consider adding one in when your gut microbiome has taken a hit for one of the following reasons.

Reducing Inflammation And Strengthening Gut Lining

Studying gut microflora

Some episodes of diarrhea are caused or worsened by gut inflammation. This is particularly true if your symptoms are caused by inflammatory bowel diseases such as colitis. Here, the key is to reduce the number of inflammatory chemicals in circulation, and ideally, to instead encourage an anti-inflammatory environment instead.

The good news is that many beneficial probiotic strains actually lower the level of pro-inflammatory compounds in the gut which can in turn reduce the risk of diarrhea.

But you need to get sufficient quantities of these to obtain the benefits – many people don’t consume enough naturally fermented foods to enjoy these benefits from their diet – but instead require a supplementary probiotic in order to gain protection.

It’s also important to sustain a strong intestinal barrier – as many people with dysbiosis and other disturbances can suffer from a permeable or leaky gut lining. This can worsen localized gut issues such as diarrhea, but also may cause systemic inflammation in the body and create issues with the gut-brain communication pathways.

Helpfully, many types of probiotics can create something called short-chain fatty acids – which are able to restore and enhance the integrity of the gut lining. Short-chain fatty acids are produced when these essential probiotic strains ferment the non-digestible carbohydrates known as prebiotics.

This is why, whatever type of probiotics you decide to take, it’s also essential that you consume sufficient prebiotics, either from your diet in the form of onions, garlic, and green bananas or by consuming a probiotic product that acts symbiotically by combining prebiotic fibers too.

Regulating Bowel Function

Another beneficial role of probiotic bacteria is their ability to regulate both bowel function and stool consistency. Probiotic bacteria can help you to find a happy middle ground with your bowel movements. This is because they are able to both reduce constipation and diarrhea.

This is ideal if you are someone who oscillates between the two states, perhaps as a result of IBS, or maybe due to frequent travel and/ or dietary changes. Studies have shown that probiotics can improve the consistency of your stools which is exactly what you’re after if diarrhea is familiar to you.

But also, probiotics can improve the stool transit time, therefore preventing either a too-rapid or too-lengthy elimination time, which helps to modulate both symptoms of diarrhea and constipation.

Managing IBS Symptoms

Many people are looking to improve IBS symptoms. As discussed earlier functional bowel disorders such as IBS are a common cause of frequent constipation and diarrhea.

In fact, IBS-induced diarrhea can be one of the most debilitating parts of the condition because it can lead to unpredictable and urgent bowel movements, as well as frequent loose stools.

But, alongside symptoms of altered bowel motility, IBS also brings with it an accompanying array of issues such as bloating, abdominal cramping, and excess gas. Luckily, probiotics are able to reduce not only the altered bowel motility and irregular bowel movements but also, the associated symptoms.

Studies have shown that those people regularly taking probiotic strains suffered less bloating and gas than those who took a placebo – indicating the importance of a well-balanced gut environment. (Source)

One reason for this is that many cases of IBS are caused or worsened by dysbiosis in the gut because an imbalance of gut microbes can lead to increased gut hypersensitivity as well as a lack of short-chain fatty acids and therefore an impaired gut lining.

However, taking in extra probiotic strains can result in healthy gut flora, and improved gut-brain communication, which is an essential part of IBS management.

Probiotics can therefore directly improve multiple mechanisms involved with both the development and duration of IBS.

The Best Strains Of Probiotics For Diarrhea

Probiotic Strains

So, now we know just how essential probiotics in general are for gut health, as well as the prevention and treatment of diarrhea.

How do we know which specific strains to take? The choice can be overwhelming.

Luckily, there is now a good evidence base to suggest that the following strains are worth consideration when choosing which probiotic you should take.

Lactobacillus Rhamnosus

This particular probiotic strain has multiple benefits when it comes to tackling diarrhea. For a start, it has potent immunomodulatory effects which means it positively enhances the way your immune system functions.

This is important, because as we discussed previously – immune system issues can play a part in your risk of getting diarrhea-causing bacterial or viral diseases. Similarly, a strong immune system can help you to ward off the pathogenic bacteria associated with gut dysbiosis.

And when you have a strong immune system you can be in a better position to handle the differing array of microbes you will encounter when traveling abroad. So by taking L. Rhamnosus, you are supporting your immune system, which in turn will support your gut. (Source)

But L. Rhamnosus also has another trick up its sleeve. This is because it actually works to reduce pathogen adherence. This simply means it makes it harder for the pathogens to stick to the gut – therefore preventing them from proliferating and taking over. So, you are getting two for the price of one with this efficient probiotic strain.

Saccharomyces Boulardii

Technically a type of yeast, Saccharomyces Boulardii is very good at reducing the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. This is why it’s often added into probiotic blends that are designed to be taken during periods of antibiotic use. (Source)

S. Boulardii reduces antibiotic-associated diarrhea in three main ways. Firstly it stimulates your immune system to defeat harmful bacteria that can cause diarrhea, and if that isn’t enough, it also reduces inflammatory processes that can result from antibiotic-induced dysbiosis.

And finally, it is able to directly target harmful bacteria and their toxins. So, this is a great strain to look out for if you are aiming to either prevent or treat antibiotic-induced diarrhea.

Bifidobacterium Infantis

This beneficial strain specializes in promoting intestinal integrity. We talked before about the importance of certain probiotic strains due to their role in reducing gut lining permeability. And this is one of those such strains. By reducing intestinal permeability B. infantis is able to reduce localized gut issues such as diarrhea and constipation, but also, it can help to improve gut-brain communications by reducing unwanted food particles from entering the bloodstream. (Source)

This is also a result of B. infantis’s ability to reduce inflammation – which again is highly beneficial if your diarrhea stems from issues such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or even the autoimmune disease coeliac.

So definitely one to watch for in your diarrhea-beating blend.

Lactobacillus Acidophilus

L. Acidophilus is a firm favorite in probiotic formulas- and for good reason. This popular probiotic is able to influence two key factors involved in the pathogenesis of diarrhea. Firstly, it can enhance the mucosal barrier function which is connected to a reduction in intestinal lining permeability and also inflammation. (Source)

Equally importantly, L.Acidophilus is also capable of positively modifying intestinal motility so that you reduce your risk of both constipation and diarrhea.

Other Important Factors For Probiotic Supplements

Because there are so many different probiotics to choose from these days, it can help to have a series of factors to consider when selecting the best product for you.

CFU count

Colony Forming Units CFUs

A good place to start is to think about the colony forming units of a product. This number is usually listed on the packaging and it can help you to compare products at a glance. The CFU count concerns the estimated number of live probiotic bacteria you will obtain per serving.

You might be inclined to think that the higher the number the better the product. And whilst a good CFU count can indicate a good product, it doesn’t guarantee it. This is because if your product has a high CFU count but only one strain, then it won’t be providing your gut with the diversity it needs to be healthy.

Similarly, if the product is not stored well then this number will not be accurate as many of the probiotics may be dead by the time they reach your gut. So whilst it’s a good place to start you’ll also need to consider the factors below too.

Delivery method

As touched on above, the delivery method is just as important, if not more so than the CFU count. This is because how a product is delivered to the gut affects how many probiotic strains will reach it alive, and therefore, how effective it is too.

Many probiotics are unable to withstand extreme temperatures, so being stored for a long time as capsules in a bottle can impair their longevity.

Whereas, probiotic bacteria which are flash or freeze-dried and turned into a probiotic powder have a much greater chance of success. This is because probiotics processed this way are able to live dormant before being reactivated with water just before consumption.

This means you will be much more likely to benefit from a greater number of healthy bacteria, than via other less effective delivery methods.

Quality Manufacturihigh-Fatesting Standards

Refrigeration Requirements

If a product requires refrigeration it can be a barrier to you taking it consistently. This in turn can result in you not gaining the benefits you would if you took it regularly.

For example, it’s quite impractical to keep your probiotic refrigerated when traveling. If you try to take your product with you and it’s not kept cold the whole time, the strains may not survive which would render your product inactive.

So choosing a probiotic powder that doesn’t need to be kept at specific temperatures 24/7 will make your life much easier, and enable you to remain consistent in your routines.

Other Strains Like Lactobacillus Casei

If your main aim of taking a probiotic is to prevent or manage diarrhea then choosing a product that contains L. Casei is pretty important. This is because it is a strain that has demonstrated real benefits for diarrhea management. (Source)

Studies have shown it can make a meaningful improvement for those suffering from loose stools, and it may even help to prevent such symptoms from occurring in the first place.

So overall, prioritizing a product that has this particular strain is an important part of your probiotic selection process.

Lifestyle Tips For Managing Diarrhea

Lifestyle for Quick Relief of Diarrhea

When it comes to managing diarrhea, it’s important to remember that you need several approaches for the best outcomes. Whilst a great place to start is directly optimizing your gut environment via the use of probiotics, there are many other strategies for success.

The first set of lifestyle tips involves some simple dietary changes that can help to calm a sensitive gut and reduce your risk of diarrhea.

You can make these changes when you are suffering from acute diarrhea, but also, you might find it helpful to use these as maintenance tools to prevent an attack from occurring too.

Dietary changes

So, aim to avoid large quantities of dairy (especially if you are lactose intolerant, in which case all products need to be either low lactose or lactose-free).

Many people with lactose intolerance-induced diarrhea find that they can tolerate small portions of fermented dairy such as live yogurt. These forms of fermented dairy can also help to repopulate the gut with good bacteria so are good to include if you can.

But having lots of high-fat dairy products such as heavy creams can be a trigger for some. Similarly, aim to cut down or avoid caffeine and alcohol, as both of these can cause loose stools in some people – especially when the gut is already irritated through other causes.

Stay Hydrated

We know that hydration is key for preventing and treating constipation, but drinking enough is also an important consideration where diarrhea is concerned. This is because having frequent loose stools can often result in mild dehydration.

So the key is to drink little and often, to prevent dehydration from occurring at all. If you are having a particularly bad bout of diarrhea then you may need to consider using rehydration sachets to help and rehydrate yourself with the correct balance of electrolytes too.

Reduce Stress

There is such a close relationship between your brain and your gut. This means that the state of one can directly affect the other. You’ve probably felt those butterflies in the stomach when you are nervous – which is a prime example of the gut-brain connection.

So, where possible, aim to reduce the level of stress in your life. While this can be easier said than done – there are some tried and tested techniques that can reduce your stress hormone cortisol. These include things like deep breathing, yoga, and tai chi, but also having a warm bath or reading more can help.

Always aim for good quality sleep too as this can increase your ability to deal with daily stressors as well.

Conclusion

Best Probiotic for Diarrhea and IBS
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Throughout this guide we have stressed just how important probiotics are in the management of diarrhea. Whilst diarrhea can be caused by multiple factors, there are often overlapping features such as gut dysbiosis, inflammation, and an impaired gut lining.

Probiotics can address all these features and more, by reducing levels of pro-inflammatory compounds, replenishing depleted beneficial bacteria, and strengthening the gut lining through the promotion of short-chain fatty acid production.

Therefore, probiotics can be of assistance whether the diarrhea is caused by an infection, IBS, or antibiotic use.And they can also help with other IBS symptoms too. 

We have also discussed just how important it is to choose the right strains of probiotics, as species such as lactobacillus acidophilus and casei can target the leading causes of diarrhea. Similarly, you should pay attention to the CFU count, delivery method, and storage method of your chosen probiotic to ensure the beneficial strains reach your gut alive.

Overall, aim to choose a high-quality product such as Supergreen Tonik and consider working together with a doctor or healthcare practitioner to find the perfect probiotic for you and your needs.

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