Gastroenteritis and Gut Microbiota

Gastroenteritis and Gut Microbiota

  • Gut Health

  • By Andréanne Martin, Bachelor's degree in nutrition

    Links that remain between the famous gastroenteritis, the gut microbiota and immune health


    6:45 am, I get a message from the daycare. Not a good sign...

    They tell us that there are still 3 cases of gastroenteritis in the group and they ask us to pay close attention to the symptoms. Whatever it takes to reassure the parents!

    We all want to ward off viruses from our little nest, but let's agree that we want the stomach flu to relocate to the neighboring town. Given that cases of gastroenteritis are more severe this year, we want to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't find its way to our house.

    Could we avoid the intrusion of this virus?

    Could we better arm ourselves to fight it?

    Currently, there are no miracle foods, supplements or probiotics to keep the virus at bay or to fight it without symptoms if it comes our way. 

    A few studies have pointed to specific bacterial strains that can potentially reduce the symptoms of gastroenteritis, but the evidence is still mixed, although in some cases there has been an improvement in general health and a decrease in bouts of diarrhea. The early use of a probiotic for acute gastroenteritis is not supported by data from randomized controlled trials.

    However, there is a wealth of data on how to make our immune system more alert. Starting with our consumption habits, a factor that is almost 100% controllable. Some good news, nonetheless!

    The “manageable” lines of immune defence


    Did you know that intestinal cells are protected by a thick layer of mucus? They make it themselves to ensure a better defence against any attack from the outside. 

    In light of its importance, it is up to us as hosts to adequately nourish our intestinal microbiota, the microorganisms that inhabit your digestive tract. Under a plant-based diet, these bacteria will ferment dietary fibers and prebiotics and this action will produce short-chain fatty acids. These molecules will serve as energy sources for the intestinal cells to produce more mucus and thus improve our overall protection.  

    Tight junctions

    In order to let amino acids from proteins, glucose, vitamins and minerals and other food substrates into the bloodstream, the intestinal cells must create small openings in the large barrier they form. These are small gates that can open and close under the action of what are called “tight junctions”. As the name implies, it is desirable for these structures to remain watertight and to open when the time comes. The opposite would mean that they remain open at all times and this would give VIP access to “bad” bacteria called pathogens and to less well digested food substrates to pass from the outside to the inside. The immune system would then react to these intruders and potentially call forth inflammatory molecules if this situation becomes chronic. In turn, the chronic inflammation created could damage the tight junctions and gradually lead us into a “vicious circle” of inflammation. Therefore, it is important that these little gates remain in perfect condition so that their work is not compromised. An adequate supply of protein and water ensures the maintenance of their structure and vitamin D is involved in their integrity.

    Take action where you can

    In practical terms, following the Healthy Eating Plate model allows us to fill up on just the right amount of protein at every meal and fiber in our daily diet.

    Let's add fermented foods for a better diversity of bacteria and a gut microbiota more committed to our cause. These include sauerkraut, Kimchi, kefir, miso, to name a few, as well as BioK+ drinkable probiotics, which, in addition to being a recognized probiotic, contain rice, soy, pea or fermented milk, depending on the chosen flavour. The probiotics contained in the product also have an effect on our immune system by helping the beneficial bacteria that are already present in our intestinal microbiota. A mighty duo to be reckoned with.

    In order to grow the bacteria producing short-chain fatty acids — these molecules mentioned earlier — the addition of colorful plants and prebiotics (garlic, onion, beets, fall squash, asparagus, legumes, buckwheat, bananas, blueberries, apples, etc.) in your daily diet must be considered. 

    I don't know about you, but from my point of view, applying these few tips leads me to say "what if we gave it our best shot"!


    Milner et al. (2021)

    Milner E, Stevens B, An M, Lam V, Ainsworth M, Dihle P, Stearns J, Dombrowski A, Rego D, Segars K. Utilizing Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Gastrointestinal Diseases. Front Microbiol. 2021 Aug 9;12:689958. 

    Lahiri et al. (2022)

    Lahiri KR, Singh R, Apte M, Patil M, Taksande A, Varona R, Chatterjee G, Verma M, Brette S, Perez MI. Efficacy and safety of Bacillus clausii (O/C, N/R, SIN, T) probiotic combined with oral rehydration therapy (ORT) and zinc in acute diarrhea in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in India. Trop Dis Travel Med Vaccines. 2022 Apr 10;8(1):9. 

    Gonzalez-Ochoa et al. (2017)

    Gonzalez-Ochoa G, Flores-Mendoza LK, Icedo-Garcia R, Gomez-Flores R, Tamez-Guerra P. Modulation of rotavirus severe gastroenteritis by the combination of probiotics and prebiotics. Arch Microbiol. 2017 Sep;199(7):953-961. doi: 10.1007/s00203-017-1400-3. Epub 2017 Jun 20. 

    Schnadower et al. (2018)

    Schnadower D, Tarr PI, Casper TC, Gorelick MH, Dean JM, O'Connell KJ, Mahajan P, Levine AC, Bhatt SR, Roskind CG, Powell EC, Rogers AJ, Vance C, Sapien RE, Olsen CS, Metheney M, Dickey VP, Hall-Moore C, Freedman SB. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG versus Placebo for Acute Gastroenteritis in Children. N Engl J Med. 2018 Nov 22;379(21):2002-2014. 

    Freedman et al. (2018)

    Freedman SB, Williamson-Urquhart S, Farion KJ, Gouin S, Willan AR, Poonai N, Hurley K, Sherman PM, Finkelstein Y, Lee BE, Pang XL, Chui L, Schnadower D, Xie J, Gorelick M, Schuh S; PERC PROGUT Trial Group. Multicenter Trial of a Combination Probiotic for Children with Gastroenteritis. N Engl J Med. 2018 Nov 22;379(21):2015-2026. 

    Freedman et al. (2020)

    Freedman SB, Xie J, Nettel-Aguirre A, Pang XL, Chui L, Williamson-Urquhart S, Schnadower D, Schuh S, Sherman PM, Lee BE, Gouin S, Farion KJ, Poonai N, Hurley KF, Qiu Y, Ghandi B, Lloyd C, Finkelstein Y; Pediatric Emergency Research Canada Probiotic (PERC) Regimen for Outpatient Gastroenteritis Utility of Treatment (PROGUT) Trial Group. A randomized trial evaluating virus-specific effects of a combination probiotic in children with acute gastroenteritis. Nat Commun. 2020 May 21;11(1):2533.  

    Mahmoud El Homsi. (2007)

    Mahmoud El Homsi. STUDY OF THE MECHANISMS OF REGULATION OF THE SECRETION AND EXPRESSION OF GASTROINTESTINAL MUCINS BY LEPTIN. Biochemistry [qbio.BM]. Université Claude Bernard - Lyon I, 2007. French. fftel-00181750

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    Andréanne Martin Bachelor's degree in nutrition
    About the author
    Andréanne Martin is a dietitian and nutritionist who drives projects that enable her to promote healthy lifestyles in order to help as many people as possible to feel better.
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