Occasional gastrointestinal symptoms are common in the otherwise healthy population. Most symptoms respond to dietary changes presumably via changes in the gut microbiota. Evidence shows that diet has a major impact on the gut microbiota and overall gastrointestinal health, and dietary interventions, such as consuming probiotics, especially Bifidobacterium, and the low oligo-, di-, and monosaccharide and polyol (FODMAP) diet, are recommended for different disorders. Physical activity may also improve the gut microbiota composition and appears to reduce digestive complaints, yet many studies analyzing the effects of diet and lifestyle are limited.

A recent study by Philippe Marteau and colleagues from France analyzed data from two previously published studies and evaluated the speed of improvement of abdominal discomfort upon consuming a fermented milk product (FMP) in 538 healthy female subjects who complained of occasional digestive discomfort. The authors also aimed to determine whether various lifestyle factors such as fiber intake or physical exercise may influence the effect of the FMP on gastrointestinal discomfort.

Participants were assigned to consume either 125g of a non-fermented dairy product without any bacterial strains (control) or a FMP that contained four probiotics twice a day for 4 weeks. Subjects were also asked to evaluate digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain and bloating each week of the study.

Statistical analyses showed that the consumption of the FMP during 4 weeks significantly improved digestive symptoms independent of exercise or fiber intake after just two weeks of the intervention. Therefore, mild gastrointestinal disturbances may be improved by regular consumption of a FMP that contains various probiotic strains. The authors also concluded the speed of the effect a dietary intervention has on gastrointestinal symptoms is likely to be a key factor in whether or not an individual follows a dietary intervention long-term.

Although these results are promising, we don’t know if the effects of consuming FMPs are long term. Despite this limitation, this randomized study shows the potential benefit that regularly consuming FMPs has on rapidly improving mild digestive complaints in women and could support overall digestive health. Therefore, incorporating yogurt and kefir into your diet could benefit the gut microbiota and may reduced abdominal symptoms in otherwise healthy people.

Reference

Marteau P, Le Nevé B, Quinquis L, et al. Consumption of a Fermented Milk Product Containing Bifidobacterium lactis CNCM I-2494 in Women Complaining of Minor Digestive Symptoms: Rapid Response Which Is Independent of Dietary Fibre Intake or Physical Activity. Nutrients. 2019. doi:10.3390/nu11010092

Allison Clark
Allison Clark
Allison Clark has a master in nutrition and health from Open University in Barcelona and a master in journalism. She is a freelance writer and nutritionist and has written various peer review papers about the role the gut microbiota plays in health, disease and endurance exercise performance. Allison is passionate about the role diet and the gut microbiota play in health and disease. Follow her on Twitter @Heal_your_Gut