Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2003 Oct;17(5):711-24.

Probiotics: what are they? What are their effects on gut physiology?

Author information

  • 1Neurogastroenterology and Nutrition Unit, INRA, 180 Chemin de Tournefeuille, BP 3, F-31931 Toulouse cedex 9, France.


Probiotics can be defined as microbial cells that have a beneficial effect on the health and well-being of the host. Since the gastrointestinal mucosa is the surface of contact with probiotics, it seems evident that the first effects of probiotics relate to digestive function. A brief review of the literature indicates that probiotics have very few effects on the main physiological functions of the gastrointestinal tract, which are digestion, absorption and propulsion. The main action of probiotics can be summarised as a reinforcement of the intestinal mucosal barrier against deleterious agents. Experimental data indicate that some probiotics reduce pathological alterations in paracellular permeability to large molecules or bacteria, stimulate mucosal immunity, display a trophic action on the mucosa, reduce mucus degradation and interact with mediators of inflammation. Yoghurt may help lactose digestion, and some data needing confirmation indicate a stimulation of water absorption and an acceleration of intestinal transit by some bacteria.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk