Gastrointestinal discomfort includes different digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, borborygmi (rumbling) and flatulence, which may impact quality of life among the general population. Probiotics can potentially improve gut function through several mechanisms and they may be an effective therapy for those with irritable bowel syndrome.

A recent systematic review and meta-analysis, led by Julie Glanville from the York Health Economics Consortium at the University of York in York (United Kingdom), has shown that the consumption of a probiotic fermented milk with Bifidobacterium lactis (B. lactis) CNCM I-2494 and lactic acid bacteria may improve outcomes related to mild gastrointestinal discomfort in healthy female adults.

Inclusion criteria for study selection were prospective, double-blind, randomized controlled trials that compared oral consumption of a probiotic fermented milk with a specific mix of B. lactis CNCM I-2494 and four lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus bulgaricus strains CNCM I-1632 and CNCM I-1519, Streptococcus thermophilus strain CNCM I-1630, and Lactococcus lactis ssp. lactis strain CNCM I-1631) with a control milk-based non-fermented dairy product for at least 4 weeks. Participants had to be 18 years old and over from the general population and with gastrointestinal discomfort at entry, which was measured by a global assessment, using a single integrated question with a dichotomous outcome, or a composite score comprising at least two of the following individual mild digestive symptoms: abdominal pain/discomfort; abdominal pain; bloating; borborygmi; or flatulence (see study selection criteria here).

 

A total of three randomized, double-blind, controlled, parallel-group trials with a total of 598 adults (female = 96.5%) that studied the effect of a probiotic fermented milk on gastrointestinal discomfort in the general population were included in the systematic review (see references here):

  • Donazzolo et al. 2007: intervention: n = 30 (37% male/63% female); control: n = 30 (33% male/67% female).
  • Guyonnet et al. 2009a: intervention: n = 102 (100% female); control: n = 100 (100% female).
  • Marteau et al. 2013: intervention: n = 168 (100% female); control: n = 168 (100% female).

 

Participants who responded to the fermented milk improved bloating, abdominal pain, and borborygmi. Besides this, the lower the symptom score, the higher the probability of response (except for flatulence, as it was weakly positively related to response).

Consumption of the probiotic fermented milk product was associated with a significant improvement in overall gastrointestinal discomfort/well-being and digestive symptoms compared with the control product.

In conclusion, the consumption of a fermented milk product with B. lactis CNCM I-2494 and lactic acid bacteria is associated with a consistent and significant improvement of outcomes related to mild gastrointestinal discomfort in healthy adults. It must be mentioned that 96% of the studied individuals were adult women and most benefit was achieved in those with mild digestive symptoms.

 

Reference:

Eales J, Gibson P, Whorwell P, et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis: the effects of fermented milk with Bifidobacterium lactis CNCM I-2494 and lactic acid bacteria on gastrointestinal discomfort in the general adult population. Therap Adv Gastroenterol. 2016. doi: 10.1177/1756283X16670075.

Paul Enck
Paul Enck
Prof. Dr. Paul Enck, Director of Research, Dept. of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Tübingen, Germany. His main interests are gut functions in health and disease, including functional and inflammatory bowel disorders, the role of the gut microbiota, regulation of eating and food intake and its disorders, of nausea, vomiting and motion sickness, and the psychophysiology and neurobiology of the placebo response, with specific emphasis on age and gender contributions. He has published more than 170 original data paper in scientific, peer-reviewed journals, and more than 250 book chapters and review articles. He is board member/treasurer of the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility and of the German Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, and has served as reviewer for many international journals and grant agencies.