Bryan Curtin, M.D., Discusses Can Probiotics Help With Bloating and Diarrhea

February 21, 2020
The Institute for Digestive Health and Liver Disease at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

Bryan Curtin, M.D., MHSc, is a Board Certified gastroenterologist with The Melissa L. Posner Institute for Digestive Health & Liver Disease at Mercy. Dr. Curtin provides diagnosis and treatment for patients with common and complex digestive health conditions including chronic abdominal pain, GI bleeding, bowel disordersgastric cancer and GI motility disorders. In this article, Dr. Curtin responds to questions from for a feature examining the impact probiotics have in impacting bloating and diarrhea.

1. What are the benefits of taking probiotics for bloating? 

I would advise caution regarding probiotics for use in bloating. Bloating has several causes, including Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, Food Intolerance, Constipation, Visceral Hypersensitivity and each are treated differently. The evidence for the use of probiotics in these conditions is lacking a clear benefit and thus I would avoid using them without physician supervision. 

2. What should consumers look for when shopping for a probiotic for bloating? Any ingredients/strains to look for or avoid?

I would advise not shopping for probiotics on your own at all for bloating. The American Gastroenterological Association states that "it remains unclear what strains of bacteria at what dose by what route of administration are safe and effective for which patient." While there is some evidence that probiotics can help with diarrhea, there is zero quality evidence supporting their use in bloating. There has been more recent evidence showing that they can actual be harmful and cause additional problems such as Brain Fogginess. 

3. What are the benefits of taking probiotics for diarrhea?

Probiotics can be useful in infectious diarrhea, as the natural gut flora is disrupted after an infection and, in otherwise healthy individuals, the probiotics can be used to repopulate the colon with healthy bacteria. This should be done in conjunction with a physician. 

2. What should consumers look for when shopping for a probiotic for diarrhea? Any ingredients/strains to look for or avoid?  

For adults and children with infectious diarrhea and are otherwise healthy, there is some evidence that preparations containing Lactobacillus GG and S. boulardii provide the most benefit.

Bryan Curtin, M.D., M.H.Sc
Director of Neurogastroenterology and Motility 
Division of Gastroenterology and Motility
Mercy Medical Center

Dr. Bryan Curtin has received advanced training at the nation’s largest motility clinic in Augusta, Georgia. He has specialized expertise in gastrointestinal (GI) motility disorders, which impact how digestive muscles and nerves move food through the digestive tract.  Symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating and distention and constipation can be key identifiers for motility issues.

Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

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About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit, MDMercyMedia on FacebookTwitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.

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