Propolis as a Possible New Treatment for IBS-C and IBS-M

Last updated: October 2022

The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not well-known. Doctors have a variety of theories for what could be involved. These include gut bacteria levels, muscle function in the digestive tract (gut motility), gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation, genetic factors, and more.1

Treatment for people with IBS with constipation (IBS-C) and IBS with constipation and diarrhea (IBS-M) usually means diet changes and symptom management. This includes avoiding trigger foods and high-FODMAP foods.1

However, there can be problems with these changes. A low-FODMAP diet is not good for people in the long term because it can lead to other health issues. FODMAP-rich foods help healthy bacteria in the gut grow, so not eating them can hurt these good bacteria.1

People with IBS need long-term, healthy ways to manage and help treat their symptoms. Propolis, a resin made by bees, is a possible new treatment.

What is propolis, and how does it work?

Propolis is a mixture of resins from different plants, buds, and trees. Bees combine these resins into propolis and use them to seal cracks in their hives. Propolis is a natural antiseptic, so it helps to protect the hive from infection and decomposition.1,2

Propolis has been used in medicine since the ancient Greeks and Romans. What propolis is used for varies by region. Different areas have different plants, so the propolis that bees make is different, too. Generally, it is a mixture of substances that combine to fight off infection. They include:2

  • Proteins
  • Fats
  • Enzymes
  • Waxes
  • Vitamins

Doctors have used propolis to treat injuries, prevent infection, and preserve bodies after they have been buried. It is currently used as an:1,2

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-fungal
  • Antiseptic
  • Antioxidant

How could propolis help IBS-C and IBS-M?

A study from April 2022 looked at how propolis can help people with IBS-C and IBS-M. Researchers chose propolis because it can help support the GI immune system and gut bacteria. Its antioxidant effects can also help decrease inflammation and improve nutrient absorption.1,2

Usually, people with IBS take prebiotic or probiotic supplements to do this. This process has been helpful for many people in managing symptoms. So, doctors wanted to see if propolis would be helpful in the same way.1

Researchers found that people with IBS-C or IBS-M who took propolis felt much better. Compared to people who took a placebo, they had:1

  • Lower IBS symptom scores
  • Lower levels of abdominal pain
  • Abdominal pain less often

Propolis also did not seem to affect weight, energy levels, or food intake for the people who took it.1

This is encouraging because it opens up the possibility for more research into antioxidant and antiinflammatory dietary supplements for IBS. However, more research needs to be done on propolis. The study did not look at people with IBS-D. It did not find out how propolis affects the good bacteria in your gut. But early results seem promising.1

Before beginning treatment with propolis, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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