The first study of its kind shows that bloating and abdominal distension are reduced in irritable bowel syndrome patients who consume the probiotic yoghurt Activia®.

The groundbreaking research was carried out at the University Hospital of South Manchester, UK, and is published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. The study involved 34 adult women - all of whom suffered from the constipation predominant form of irritable bowel syndrome IBS-C.

Half of the women consumed Activia®, a probiotic yoghurt produced by Danone containing the unqiue Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 strain, every day for four weeks while the other half received a non-fermented dairy product over the same period.

To measure any effects that both Activia® and the control product were having all patients kept symptom diaries, recording occurence and severity of abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating and distension.

Distension is defined as an observable increase in abdominal girth while bloating is used to describe the sensation of abdominal swelling. You can feel bloated without the presence of actual abdominal distension.

The main finding of the study was that distension of the tummy was reduced by up to 78% in the women with IBS-C who consumed Activia®. The research also revealed that the probiotic yoghurt was able to improve gastrointestinal transit time and reducethe overall IBS severity and associated discomfort such as abdominal pain.

Commenting on the study researcher Professor Whorwell said: "Constipation, bloating and distension are common and distressing features of IBS with some sufferers being so bloated by the end of the day that they have to loosen clothing. Distension is associated with delayed gastrointestinal transit and one of the mechanisms by which Activia® may be helping this problem is by the acceleration of transit which we confirmed in our study. Now healthcare professionals can advise that taking this probiotic yogurt may alleviate some of the symptoms experienced by IBS sufferers. A simple step to take without any risk of side effects."

Study participant Kirsten Hamilton was also impressed with the probiotic yoghurt. She said: "The pain, discomfort and bloating I suffered as a result of my IBS is now a thing of the past. I truly believe in the benefits of eating Activia every day and continue to do so. I'm no longer filled with dread when I pull my jeans on in the morning!"

Since Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 is a bit of a mouthful Danone trademarked the name Bifidus Actiregularis(TM) to refer to the bacteria in Activia®. In a survey conducted by the company themselves 82% of people with self-reported digestive discomfort said they felt better after consuming at least one pot of Activia® for two weeks and 87% reported feeling less bloated.

Trevor Datson, external communications director at Danone, commented: "This study builds on previous trials that demonstrate the benefit of Activia® on the management of IBS symptoms. It adds to the body of evidence that Activia® can both help improve digestive comfort and improve gastrointestinal transit time.

He continued: "It is important to remember that the findings of this study are specific to Activia®, which contains the unique strain Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010, and can't be extrapolated to other probiotic products. Different probiotic products can have very different effects, so you should always look for one that has a scientifically proven effect."

In a growing marketplace many consumers are confused about probiotic products and their potential benefits. With little regulation products often contain far fewer probiotic bacteria than advertised, don't have the effects suggested, and in some instances may not contain any live bacteria at all. Trevor Datson provides excellent advice when he advises choosing a product with scientifically proven effects, whether this is Activia® or a product from a different brand.


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