Digestive disorders – there are solutions!

Food - Posted onSunday 10 January 2021

In France, 1 in 2 people suffer from a digestive disorder, with stomach aches, bloating, diarrhea and nausea etc. forming part of their daily life. However, solutions do exist to identify the source of these issues and try to remedy them. Among these, preventive biology and adapted nutrition can be of great help.

What are digestive disorders?

The term functional digestive disorder is used when there is no proven lesion. These disorders are characterised by a disturbed functioning of the digestive system, which can manifest itself in several ways:

  • Disorders affecting the stomach, called “upper stomach disorders” or “functional dyspepsia”. This causes a feeling of heaviness or being “too full”, which may be accompanied by a loss of appetite, nausea, heartburn, belching, bloating or pain above the umbilicus, occuring during or after meals. It is common, affecting 5-40% of adults.
  • Digestive disorders of the intestine, called “low colic disorders”, “functional colopathy” or “irritable bowel syndrome”, which manifest themselves as bloating and intestinal gas. While it is normal to emit flatulence, it can also (more rarely) be the sign of inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease or food intolerance. It is estimated that 4% of the French population is affected, but the diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome is not easy and this figure may be largely underestimated.

Digestive disorders can also be a sign of serious illness. A medical consultation is necessary in the case of black stools, regular vomiting, fever or weight loss.

Half of the French population are affected!

Don’t feel isolated! Even if not many people around you talk openly about their digestive disorders, nearly half of French people suffer from them, according to a 2017 IFOP survey. For most, it is a matter of indisposition, such as abdominal pain and frequent gas (25% of cases), or irregular bowel movements (22% of cases).

Women are more prone to these discomforts, with 54% experiencing at least one type of digestive disorder, compared to 41% of men.

However, almost half (46%) of those affected do not take any specific action to put an end to their problems! 26% look for a solution on their own by changing their lifestyle, while 28% seek help from a health professional or use food supplements.

What causes poor digestion?

Digestion is the process by which food is broken down and transformed into assimilable nutrients that will pass through the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream. It begins in the mouth with chewing and saliva production, continues in the stomach, thanks to the acidic digestive juices, and then in the intestine, where the food comes into contact with digestive juices from the pancreas and gall bladder.

There are many causes of irritation in the digestive system:

  • A diet that is too rich and copious;
  • Fatty, salty, spicy, acidic foods or foods that can ferment in the intestine (cabbage, peas, dried beans, etc.);
  • Ingestion of carbonated drinks, coffee and/or alcohol in excess;
  • Food intolerances responsible for intestinal hyperpermeability (IPH);
  • Being overweight;
  • Stress and anxiety;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Chronic diseases (such as type 2 diabetes);
  • Medication (e.g. antibiotics and PPI’s, etc.)

What are the solutions?

Take care of your lifestyle

A few common-sense lifestyle rules help prevent digestive disorders and limit unpleasant situations. Among the most common recommendations are:

  • A varied and balanced diet, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and low in fats and sugars;
  • Drinking enough water (about 1.5 litres per day), preferably outside of meals;
  • Taking time to eat in a calm environment, chewing all food well;
  • Avoiding foods known to irritate the digestive system;
  • Avoiding lying down immediately after eating;
  • Avoiding wearing tight clothes;
  • Exercising regularly to facilitate bowel movements.

Stress affects the proper functioning of the digestive system. It is activated by the sympathetic nervous system, which inhibits digestion but accelerates certain digestive functions, such as peristalsis, gastric secretions and intestinal dysbiosis, etc. Moreover, the brain and the intestine are linked. Here, we are referring to the brain-intestine axis, which is bidirectional, meaning an unhealthy gut can also be a generator of stress.

It’s therefore very important to take this fundamental link into account. Identifying stress factors and learning to recognise them can help you to prevent them and thus limit their impact on your health.

Preventive biology can help prevent possible alterations or guide their management if they are already present. Our DigestCheck is aimed at people suffering from digestive disorders. It looks at the parameters involved in intestinal balance and thus can guide you to the origin of your problems.

Take control of a possible food intolerance

The balance of intestinal microbiota and the correct functioning of the epithelium can be disturbed by ingesting food which is poorly tolerated in an immunological sense, which leads to food intolerance, also called hypersensitivity or type 3 intolerances, causing the intestinal mucosa to change. This results in damage to the intestinal epithelium, ultimately leading to intestinal hyperpermeability (IPH), which promotes the passage of poorly digested food molecules and bacterial toxins into the bloodstream.

Gastrointestinal disorders (flatulence and bloating, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea, abdominal spasms) are a warning factor. After ruling out food allergy or coeliac disease, your doctor may prescribe an IgG food intolerance test. If it proves positive, a nutritional strategy will be necessary to avoid them.

The Nutritol panels proposed by Juvenalis allow the determination of the four classes of IgG against a number of foods. Five types of panels are available, testing 25, 50, 50 Vegan, 100 or 270 different foods respectively.

Take care of your gut microbiota!

The gut is home to many micro-organisms, called microbiota. When these microbiota are unbalanced, i.e. when there is a predominance of certain harmful bacteria and a decrease in good bacteria, or when the production of active metabolites is disturbed, we are faced with a dysbiosis. This can be the cause of various symptoms, such as:

  • Motility disorders (constipation, diarrhoea, bloating);
  • Chronic intestinal diseases (Crohn’s disease, haemorrhagic rectocolitis, etc.);
  • Irritable bowel syndrome;
  • Intestinal hyperpermeability;
  • Food intolerances.

The diversity and quality of your diet influence the balance of your intestinal microbiota by encouraging (or hindering) the development of bacteria that are beneficial to the digestive system.

Certain foods, known as prebiotics, are favourable to the development of “good” bacteria and should be favoured. These include fresh fruit and vegetables, fermented foods, spices, legumes and oilseeds, etc. Conversely, foods that contain excessive quantities of refined sugars (white bread, pasta, white rice, etc.) or protein (meat, eggs, milk) are not recommended.

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances or chronic inflammatory diseases, it may be worthwhile to carry out a mapping of your intestinal microbiota in order to find out if you have a dysbiosis, made possible by the Juvenalis Intestinal Microbiota cartography.

This mapping will identify and quantify your gut bacteria. It can also potentially identify the presence of pathogens in your microbiota. This information will allow you to implement solutions to rebalance your microbiota and reduce your symptoms.