Trillions of bacteria live inside us; in fact, the bacteria in our gut is essential to help us digest our food1. However, eating foods our bodies aren't used to, or consuming something that's 'gone off' can often result in a stomach upset. Having an upset tummy is uncomfortable at the best of times: it's exhausting, debilitating, not to mention painful and can completely disrupt everyday life. We're constantly receiving queries about whether probiotics can help an upset stomach so we thought we'd write this short blog post to shed some light on the subject and hopefully help a few people in the process.

Upset Stomach - IBS & diarrhoea

People often ask whether probiotics can help an upset stomach and in short, the answer is yes! If you stay with me, I'll explain why. Specific probiotic strains of good bacteria have been known to help alleviate the symptoms of illnesses including IBS and diarrhoea and reduce the symptoms by up to 24 hours. One particular strain, clinically trialled2 to reduce the effects of stomach upsets, is Saccharomyces boulardii, unique from other bacterial strains such as L. acidophilus because it is actually a probiotic yeast, originally found in lychee fruit. This 'fruity' strain is known for its transient qualities, meaning that it doesn't colonise in the intestines. Interestingly, it is thought to have a sticky outer membrane which it may use to adhere itself to harmful bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella. This process is thought to help remove the bad bacteria from the system - it is the only probiotic that does this!

The NHS3 has even reported on this topic on their website; examining a review which looked at a number of clinical studies on probiotics and stomach upsets - and concluding that they "reduced the duration of diarrhoea by about 25 hours compared with no treatment".

In layman's terms, S. boulardii is thought to attach itself to the bad bacteria and slowly remove it from your system. This may help to reduce IBS and diarrhoea symptoms by up to 24 hours, allowing you to get back on your feet quicker. For more information on Saccharomyces boulardii, healthcare professionals can click here.

Travellers' Diarrhoea

Going on holiday is always one of the highlights on my annual calendar! Whether you're going away to a familiar destination, returning home to see family or backpacking to distant lands to explore uncharted territory, it's invariably a memorable experience. However, sometimes these new experiences travelling to far away lands can also produce some nasty and uncomfortable stomach related side effects.

Normally, our gut is exposed to a certain type of bacteria in everyday life and our immune system is accustomed to this. However, when we visit different countries, our bodies become exposed to very different types of bacteria that we may not have encountered previously, usually by consuming the food and drinking water. Consequently, our body goes into a 'defence mode' which causes stomach upsets, sickness, diarrhoea and discomfort. Trying the local cuisine in countries such as Thailand, India, Egypt or Cambodia which could include eating frog, snake, silk worms or even scorpion (certainly not for the faint-hearted) may also lead to diarrhoea or sickness, often referred to as "Travellers' Diarrhoea". Even drinking the water in some exotic counties can cause illness!

Saccharomyces boulardii
also happens to be a probiotic that helps ease the effects of the dreaded “traveller’s diarrhoea”, clinically researched4 to support gut health in those that travel abroad to exotic locations. S.boulardii, as mentioned above, works differently from other probiotics specifically because of its unique transient qualities. This means that it can pass through the system without binding to the gut wall. It works by adhering itself to harmful bacteria and gently removing those unwelcome pathogens from the system.

Consequently, when travelling abroad, it’s also considered a good idea to take other types of probiotics alongside Saccharomyces boulardii in an effort to battle bad bacteria in two ways. Live cultures, like L. acidophilus and L. rhamnosus are thought to possess qualities that allows the natural bacteria to line the interior of the gut wall, creating a barrier and fortifying the guts natural defences. Amazing right?! Now you can travel abroad without worrying about “Delhi Belly”.

Whether you're experiencing stomach discomfort at home, or in a hostel in Mumbai you now know that certain strains of probiotics may help ease these symptoms. Happy travelling!

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2. Hochter, W. et al (1990) Saccharomyces boulardii in acute adult diarrhea. Efficacy and tolerance of treatment. Munchener Medizinische Wochenschrift; Vol. 132 (12) pp. 188-192

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