I thought this might be of some interest to some people. It was sent to me via an IBS network here in the UK.The bowel is home to milions and millions of bacteria. A few of these bacteria are potentially harmful but most are actually able to promote good health.When the balance goes wrong. There are lots of reasons for the fine balamce of these bacteria going wrong snf yhr bad guys getting the upper hand. It could be because you catch a viral infection or it could be from a bacterial infection. A bad bout of diarrhoea can tip the scales so that these pathogenic bacteria takes over. A dose of antibiotics may also have this affect.An anaesthetic you have before an operation has a similar effect, as does the stress of surgery and radio and chemotherapy. The result of getting this out of balance may lead to diarrhoea, wind and abdominal discomfort.Getting the balance right. Probiotics are bacteria that can be given as treatment either to resotore a balanced bacterial population, or to prevent the populations ever getting out of balance. Only a few bacteria however are able to work in the human digestive tract and these include Bifidobacterium and those from the Lactobacillus family. Although both of these are active in our bowels, whether we get them from foods we eat depends on whether they survive the digestive process. Most are actually destroyed by the acidic contents of the stomach so although we eat them in foods like yoghurts, they do not make it to the bowel.Another problem is that while some members of these families do survive, once they get to the bowel they are not able to multiply.Findng strains which can survive, attach and reproduce has taken dedicated scientists time and skill. It was only once they found a type of bacterial able to fulfil all these functions that it was possible to create a food or drink which has a truly probiotic effect.What can probiotics offer?1. Reduce wind and pain.Clinical trials contducted with some probiotics now on the market show they help reduce gas formation in the bowel and reduce pain. Although preliminary trials undertaken with volunteers suffering from IBS suggested an improvement in symptons, larger controlled trials are required to test whether probiotics will offer long term effects to a significant portion of IBS sufferers.2. Promote healing and reduce diarrhoea.The bowel wall can be damaged following radio or chemotherapy, after infection or after an operation. Probiotics can stimulate healing when included in the diet and this may reduce diarrhoea.3. Boost the immune system.The bowel wall has its own immune system which helps fight off infection. Laboratory experiments with some of the probiotics on the market have shown that the inclusion in the diet can actually help increase the production of an immunoglobin antibody called IgA which play s an important role in the gut's defence mechanism.The range of probiotics There are various functional foods on the market with make supplementing the diet with probiotics easy. But, some products have specific clinical validation. These include Yakult( a dairy based product) Culturelle( a capsule probiotic) and ProViva (the natural fruit and oat based drink. Good for those who are lactose intolerant or on dairy free diets) Each can provide a 'daily dose' of beneficial bacteria.I stated earlier that more research needed to be carried out to determine the specific benefits to IBS patients. A study which has recently been completed in Cambridgeshire on this is due to have the results out later this Spring.I hope this helps some people. I am sure giving it a try.