Probiotics for Bloating: Benefits, Types, and Buyer’s Guide

probiotics for bloating: man holding his stomach

Twenty to 30% of the general population experiences bloating and distension. In people with gastrointestinal disorders (like irritable bowel syndrome), that percentage rises sharply to 96% [1]. As common as bloating is, it’s still a struggle for many of us today. Fortunately, science speaks highly of the effectiveness of probiotics for bloating

From resolving the root causes of poor gut health to relieving the actual symptoms, we explain why adding probiotic supplements to your diet translates to better health and wellness. But first, let’s cover what bloating is and what conditions relate to it.

What Is Bloating?

Bloating is excess gas or pressure in your intestines. You may feel abdominal fullness, tightness, or heaviness. It is a symptom that commonly appears in gastrointestinal disorders like:

Bloating also usually appears with other gastrointestinal symptoms [2] such as:

  • Poor stool frequency and motility (constipation)
  • Distension (swollen abdomen)
  • Abdominal pain and cramps

Note: Bloating is generally episodic, meaning it comes and goes. If you experience constant bloating, it may be a sign of a more serious health condition, please consult a healthcare professional immediately.

What Causes Bloating?

As bloating is a symptom in many digestive issues, it can be attributed to various causes:

1. Gut Dysbiosis

Trillions of live microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, and protozoa) reside in your gastrointestinal tract, making up the gut microbiome [3].

An imbalanced gut microbiota — too much bad bacteria and too little good bacteria — is one of the common causes of bloating. IBS (commonly associated with bloating) is linked to decreased levels of the beneficial Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria bacteria in the gut [4].

Bad bacteria create gut inflammation, which may trigger bloating and gas production [5, 6]. Bacterial overgrowth also produces excess gas and contributes to abdominal fullness [7, 8].

2. Diet or Food Allergies

A diet high in carbohydrates or fermentable fiber may cause bloating. Short-chain carbohydrates maybe poorly digested in the digestive tract and can become food for harmful gut microbes instead. This, in turn, causes more gas, bloating, and distension.

Food allergies and sensitivities also trigger abdominal fullness. For example, when lactose-intolerant individuals consume dairy products, their digestive systems cannot break down lactose completely, leading to bloating.

3. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a type of bacterial dysbiosis in which gut bacteria ferment carbohydrates to produce intestinal gas.

This digestive issue is due to an overgrowth of normal gut bacteria in the small intestine (usually present in small amounts) [9]. SIBO also frequently overlaps with IBS symptoms, like bloating and abdominal distension [10, 11].

4. Constipation

In constipated individuals, food moves too slowly through the digestive tract, increasing the risk of fermentation and bacterial overgrowth [12]. Poor stool frequency also means food is backed up in your intestines, resulting in stomach distention and discomfort [13].

A few studies also showed that constipation might prolong gas retention in your gut, which further intensifies bloating and distention [14, 15, 16, 17].

How To Prevent and Minimize Bloating

probiotics for bloating: walking

Bloating causes discomfort, but there are functional remedies to resolve it. A combination of the following therapeutic interventions help boost symptom relief.

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet free of bloat-inducing foods helps reduce gut inflammation.

In particular, there is much research supporting a low FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols) diet, which excludes fermentable carbohydrates to starve out harmful gut microbes. The diet was found to alleviate bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain [18, 19, 20, 21, 22].

As the low FODMAP diet can be complex to implement, working with a nutritionist or nutrition coach helps take out the guesswork. This way, you’re more likely to adhere to the diet and improve your symptoms.

Note: Prebiotics (and prebiotic fiber) may feed the good bacteria in your gut, but most are high FODMAP foods. As such, prebiotic consumption may cause a flare-up. It’s best to reintroduce them to your diet after your gut heals.

Exercise and Posture

Regular physical activity may help relieve bloating. One meta-analysis suggested that gentle aerobic exercises such as walking and Qigong (mind-body-spirit practice) significantly improved constipation [23]. Another study also supported mild physical activity to boost intestinal gas clearance and reduce bloating [24].

Your body posture also affects how long gas stays in the GI tract. One study showed that gas clearance is quicker when you are upright as to lying down, thereby improving abdominal fullness [25].

Digestive Enzymes

Supplementing with the right digestive enzymes may help you consume high FODMAP foods and other foods you may be sensitive or intolerant to. One study showed that digestive enzymes potentially improve bloating, abdominal pain, and flatulence in IBS and IBD patients [26].

Hydration

Currently, there is limited research on whether hydration eases constipation and bloating [27]. However, a few studies highlighted that sufficient water intake might improve stool motility, especially when paired with adequate fiber consumption [28, 29].

Do Probiotics Help Treat and Prevent Bloating?

Where dietary and lifestyle interventions are insufficient, probiotics supplementation is the next best course of action. There is a large body of high-quality research supporting the efficacy of probiotics for bloating.

The main goal of probiotics is to promote and maintain a healthy balance in your gut environment.

1. Resolve Underlying Causes of Bloating

As mentioned earlier, poor digestive health due to bacterial imbalance and fermentation brings about bloating and other related symptoms. Thankfully, science has shown that probiotics help:

  • Enrich the bacterial diversity in your gut microbiome [30, 31]
  • Fight harmful bugs and their toxins [32, 33, 34]
  • Speed up your recovery from imbalances in the gut microbiota [35]
  • Lower gut inflammation [36]
  • Promote good bacteria growth in your digestive tract [37]
  • Reduce leaky gut [38, 39, 40]

By addressing the root causes of bloating, probiotics help boost your gut’s immune system for a healthier digestive system [41, 42, 43] without any side effects [44].

2. Alleviate Abdominal Pain and Distension

Due to gas production, abdominal pain and distention often occur with bloating. In these cases, probiotics consumption is associated with improvements in abdominal discomfort [45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50].

3. Relieve Constipation

close-up of belly button

Constipation is another gastrointestinal symptom that occurs with bloating. Two-meta analyses and systematic reviews showed that probiotics promote shorter gut transit time, more frequent bowel movements, and better stool consistency [51, 52].

4. Reduce SIBO-Related Bloating

Current research supports probiotics used with SIBO treatments can reduce bloating. A meta-analysis and systematic review showed that probiotics consumption effectively reduced bacterial overgrowth and abdominal pain levels in SIBO patients [53]. It also noted lower hydrogen gas production, one of the five common gases in the GI tract [54].

5. Address Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Probiotics may positively improve bloating associated with food allergies. One systematic review discovered that probiotics improved dairy product tolerance [55].

In addition, probiotics help reduce leaky gut symptoms that contribute to food sensitivities, further alleviating diet-related bloating.

Probiotic-Rich Foods vs. Probiotic Supplements

Dairy products and fermented foods, such as yogurt and sauerkraut, are rich in probiotics. While they remain healthy foods for most people, these probiotic-rich foods are often high in FODMAPs, which can worsen bloating.

Moreover, many of them have low levels of probiotic colony-forming units (CFUs), which may not be enough to provide a clinical effect. CFUs refers to the number of active probiotic bacteria in each serving, which divide and form beneficial colonies.

In contrast, probiotic supplements are usually free of fermentable carbohydrates. They also contain therapeutic doses of live probiotic bacteria for adequate symptom relief.

What Are the Best Probiotic Strains for Bloating?

There are countless probiotic species, each with different probiotic strains. 

Contrary to popular belief, probiotics are not condition-specific. Instead, they generally influence your gut microbiome to improve your overall digestive health.

The best probiotic strains for bloating come from the three main categories:

  • Category 1: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium blends
  • Category 2: Saccharomyces boulardii
  • Category 3: Soil-based blends, usually the Bacillus species

At Austin Functional Medicine, our experienced functional medicine doctors recommend a triple probiotic protocol. It involves choosing one high-quality probiotic strain from each of the three categories. Multi-strain probiotics can better outcompete harmful gut bacteria to maintain a healthy gut microbiota. Let’s review the three categories:

Category 1: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium blends are the most well-researched. These lactic acid-producing probiotic bacteria are also commonly available in supplemental form.

Lactobacillus has over 100 species, including:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum

Bifidobacterium has over 30 species, including:

  • Bifidobacterium infantis
  • Bifidobacterium lactis

Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are both effective against bloating and abdominal pain by reducing bacterial overgrowth and gas production [56].

Both species also help promote a normal GI tract function, a healthy immune system, and a balanced gut microbiome [57].

Note: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium blends do not colonize your gut.

Category 2: Saccharomyces boulardii

Saccharomyces boulardii (S. boulardii) is the second most researched probiotic. It is a beneficial yeast that is not naturally part of the human gut microbiota.

This probiotic strain relieves bloating, abdominal pain, and flatulence in GI conditions like IBS [58, 59]. It also has antifungal properties to reduce fungal infections and improve food intolerances [60].

Note: Saccharomyces boulardii does not colonize your gut.

Category 3: Soil-Based Blends

Soil-based probiotics (Bacillus species) are spore-forming bacteria. They may help replace missing bacteria in your digestive system due to modern society’s reduced contact with soil and the natural environment.

Note: Soil-based probiotics can colonize your gut.

How To Choose High-Quality Probiotics for Bloating

probiotics for bloating in a table

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate probiotic supplements, which give rise to inaccurate product claims at best and potentially harmful supplements at worst.

In one study, 26 probiotic supplements did not live up to their label claims. Some of them even contained unacceptable (potentially harmful) microorganisms [61].

Another major issue regarding the lack of regulations is discrepancies in probiotic strains [62] and concentration level [63] present in these dietary supplements.

To choose high-quality probiotics for bloating, look for:

  • Independent laboratory analysis ensures the dietary supplement meets its product claims.
  • Genetic identification confirms the probiotic strain meets the product claim, protecting you from harmful substances.
  • Free of major allergens such as wheat, gluten, milk, casein, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and soybeans. The best probiotics for bloating also exclude artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
  • Validated potency guarantees that certain probiotics are stored by the manufacturer and shipped in refrigerated conditions to retain the potency list on the label claims.
  • Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) are a set of best practices for producing dietary supplements in the United States. It certifies the consistent quality and purity of the probiotics.

In addition to the above, high-quality probiotic supplements should include:

  • A clearly stated list of probiotic species
  • A clearly stated number of CFUs (in billions)
  • Manufacture date and/or expiry date

Note: Some probiotic supplements may contain prebiotics as additives, which can worsen bloating for some people. To avoid a flare-up, scrutinize its ingredient list to ensure it’s free of prebiotics.

Try Probiotics for Bloating To Enjoy Optimal Gut Health

Even though bloating affects your health and quality of life, you can resolve it. Aside from healthy eating and living, probiotics are a cornerstone in functional treatments for bloating. These dietary supplements provide a host of benefits, from alleviating gut imbalances to resolving actual symptoms, like abdominal pain and constipation.

While many probiotic supplements are generally beneficial for bloating, not all of them are created equal. The best probiotics for bloating are multi-strain supplements from the three main categories listed above. Review the product claims, certifications, and other relevant information to ensure you are getting what you paid for.

If you want to learn more about probiotics for bloating or need help with this digestive issue, feel free to reach out to our team at Austin Functional Medicine today.

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