Multi-strain synbiotic formula relieves IBS symptoms in study

A study using a commercially available, nine-strain synbiotic formula showed significant IBS symptom relief in a 4-week, placebo-controlled study.

Hank Schultz, Senior Editor

May 31, 2024

3 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Polish study used a nine-strain synbiotic as a study material.
  • Blend included FOS as its prebiotic component.
  • Results showed significant IBS symptom relief.

A synbiotic formulation consisting of a multi-strain probiotic formula combined with a prebiotic fiber helped IBS sufferers achieve significant symptom relief in a study done in Poland.

The new research was published this month in the journal Nutrients. It was the work of a group of researchers associated with two Polish universities.

One of the authors disclosed a consulting relationship with German firm Vivatrex, which manufactured the test material. But the authors asserted there was no outside funding of the study, and they said the research material was purchased, not donated.

Research material manufactured by German company

The research material is a formula branded as Vivatlak Synbiotikum, manufactured by Vivatrex, based in Rees, Germany. The product consists of nine proprietary branded probiotic strains. No one strain accounts for more than 20% of the total 45 billion CFUs (colony forming units). Fructooligosaccharide (FOS) was included as the prebiotic component of the mixture.

The use of the term synbiotic in the product’s name is an indication of how the definition of the term has expanded over the years. In the first years of its use, the term suggested the specific prebiotic fiber included in the mixture had been demonstrated to foster the colonization of the specific bacteria in the blend.

After deliberation on the part of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), the group decided that definition was both too restrictive and too confusing for consumers. Now, the group’s definition reads as follows: “a mixture comprising live microorganisms and substrate(s) selectively utilized by host microorganisms that confers a health benefit on the host.”

ISAPP further divided synbiotics into “complementary synbiotics” and “synergistic synbiotics.” The latter group are the products that have data showing the microorganisms preferentially feed upon the prebiotic fiber in the blend. 

Synbiotics research gathering steam

Far more research is done on probiotics than on synbiotics, but the latter research topic has gathered steam in recent years. For example, in 2004, about 10 studies on probiotics were listed on the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) PubMed database for every synbiotic study. By 2022, that ratio had fallen to about 7:1.

Probiotic and prebiotic studies using fully healthy subjects have often struggled to demonstrate marked benefits. It’s easier to demonstrate an effect with subjects who have a problem to solve.

In this case, the researchers recruited a cohort of patients with mild to moderate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). According to NIH, IBS is defined as “the presence of abdominal pain or discomfort with altered bowel habits,” in the absence of another causative disease or condition.

The researchers noted that IBS is a multifactorial condition whose causes are still imperfectly understood, and several drugs and other interventions have demonstrated at least some benefit. The researchers said anecdotal reports of how the Vivatlak Synbiotikum product had been used to good effect by IBS sufferers led them to conduct the present trial under more controlled conditions.

Synbiotic demonstrated significant symptom relief

The researchers recruited a cadre of 202 adult IBS patients who took the study material or a placebo for four weeks. The primary outcomes were two validated measures of IBS severity: the severity of IBS symptoms (IBS-SSS) and the improvement of IBS global symptoms (IBS-GIS). Secondary endpoints comprised adequate relief (IBS-AR scale), stool form type (Bristol Stool Form Scale), bowel movements, severity of abdominal pain and bloating, stool pressure, feeling of incomplete stool evacuation, and adverse events.

One of the subjects dropped out of the trial, and 201 patients completed the study. Synbiotic treatment, in comparison to placebo, significantly improved IBS-SSS and IBS-GIS scores. At the end of the treatment, 70% of patients in the synbiotic group achieved adequate relief.

As with many probiotic and/or synbiotic interventions, questions remain about the durability of the effects, the researchers noted.

“Follow-up assessments of patients who participated in the present study are in the process of being collected. However, a separate randomized clinical study addressing the long-term effects of treatment with the synbiotic will be needed to establish a solid understanding of the sustainability of the treatment effects,” they concluded.

About the Author(s)

Hank Schultz

Senior Editor, Informa

Hank Schultz has been the senior editor of Natural Products Insider since early 2023. He can be reached at [email protected]

Prior to joining the Informa team, he was an editor at NutraIngredients-USA, a William Reed Business Media publication.

His approach to industry journalism was formed via a long career in the daily newspaper field. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin with degrees in journalism and German, Hank was an editor at the Tempe Daily News in Arizona. He followed that with a long stint working at the Rocky Mountain News, a now defunct daily newspaper in Denver, where he rose to be one of the city editors. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his time there.

The changing landscape of the newspaper industry led him to explore other career paths. He began his career in the natural products industry more than a decade ago at New Hope Natural Media, which was then part of Penton and now is an Informa brand. Hank formed friendships and partnerships within the industry that still inform his work to this day, which helps him to bring an insider’s perspective, tempered with an objective journalist’s sensibility, to his in-depth reporting.

Harkening back to his newspaper days, Hank considers the readers to be the primary stakeholders whose needs must be met. Report the news quickly, comprehensively and above all, fairly, and readership and sponsorships will follow.

In 2015, Hank was recognized by the American Herbal Products Association with a Special Award for Journalistic Excellence.

When he’s not reporting on the supplement industry, Hank enjoys many outside pursuits. Those include long distance bicycle touring, mountain climbing, sailing, kayaking and fishing. Less strenuous pastimes include travel, reading (novels and nonfiction), studying German, noodling on a harmonica, sketching and a daily dose of word puzzles in The New York Times.

Last but far from least, Hank is a lifelong fan and part owner of the Green Bay Packers.

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like