What are the various symptoms related to digestive problems?
Diarrhoea is characterised by liquid or soft stools, which are bulkier or more numerous than normal. A distinction can be made between:
- Infectious diarrhoea: caused by microorganisms (bacteria such as Clostridium difficile, viruses such as rotavirus, or parasites), passed on by an infected individual or by drinking or eating contaminated water or food;
- Diarrhoea associated with antibiotics: occurring during or after antibiotic treatments;
- Traveller’s diarrhoea.
Athletes are particularly susceptible to this symptom.
This problem is directly related to our lifestyles and environment.
Constipation is a symptom that affects most people at some stage of their life (pregnancy, the elderly, etc.).
Bloating is characterised by the presence of excess gas in the digestive tract. The excess air is eliminated by passing wind (flatulence) or burping (eructation).
The gases produced are derived from the fermentation of food when it comes into contact with the bacteria of the gut microbiota.
Excess gas is promoted by stress, swallowing air while eating, drinking alcohol or smoking, fizzy drinks, etc.
Due to their immature microbiota, babies and young children can suffer from indigestion, causing intestinal gas.
Specific case of irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common problem affecting the large bowel. It is a chronic condition involving multiple factors, with a slight inflammatory component. It is associated with the symptoms outlined above, affecting quality of life: abdominal pain/digestive discomfort, bloating, presence of mucus in the stools and transit problems. The causes are not always clear, but it appears that dysbiosis of the gut microbiota may be partly responsible for the development of the various symptoms.
What is irritable intestine syndrome (IBS) ?
How do probiotics improve digestive symptoms?
By restoring the balance of the gut microbiota, probiotics reinforce the filter effect of the gut lining, limiting the colonisation and proliferation of unwanted agents such as Clostridium difficile or rotavirus. They exert their beneficial effects by competing for adhesion sites or nutrients, secreting antimicrobial agents such as bacteriocins, which are harmful to pathogens, and/or stimulating the immune system.
Probiotics help alleviate digestion problems. They improve intestinal comfort, limiting bloating, cramps and abdominal pain.
They regulate intestinal transit that is too slow or, conversely, too fast. Therefore probiotics have been shown to be useful to reduce the incidence and duration of episodes of constipation.
This property may be related to their capacity to produce acids. Thanks to a lowering of pH and the stimulation of intestinal motricity, probiotics improve the consistency and frequency of stools.
But probiotics have also proved to be very useful in the event of diarrhoea, whether infectious, associated with antibiotics or travel-related. They reduce the duration and incidence of diarrhoea by acting on recolonisation of the digestive tract.
Probiotics have been extensively studied in the context of irritable bowel syndrome. They have been shown to have beneficial effects on various symptoms, alleviating abdominal pain, reducing bloating and improving intestinal motility and digestive comfort.