Probiotics for Constipation: What You Need to Know
Published June 25th, 2020
Though it has a lot of benefits, probiotics have always been associated with gut health – and for good reason. Several studies have proven its efficacy in diarrhea and other digestive issues. But the all-important question that’s probably on your mind right now is: will it treat constipation?
Though the evidence remains inconclusive, several studies prove that probiotics can help ease constipation. A review published in 2014 says that probiotics can improve stool consistency and increase its frequency by 1.3 bowel movements per week. It also found that probiotics help reduce intestinal transit time. Harvard even evaluated this review and agreed with most of the findings in it.
So what does this all mean?
Intestinal transit time refers to how long it takes for the gut to digest the foods you eat. Those suffering from constipation often have longer intestinal transit time than healthy people. Constipated people also suffer from hard, lumpy stools that are difficult to pass. Improving the stool’s consistency will make pooping easier and less painful. It can also lead to an improved stool frequency and a more regular bowel movement.
Conditions That Lead to Constipation
Constipation is one of the most common digestive health issues in the world. But most of the time, it is brought about by an underlying condition. Knowing what’s causing your constipation can help you address it more effectively.
Aside from stomach pain and bloating, people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) also experience constipation.
It’s estimated that up to 38% of pregnant women experience constipation. This is mostly due to the hormonal changes that the body goes through during pregnancy. A pregnant woman’s intestines also tend to absorb more water which hardens the stool. Vitamin supplements and an enlarged uterus also contributes to the slow movement of feces across the gut.
Constipation is one of the most common conditions that plague growing children. It’s linked with various factors such as genetics, diet, psychological issues, and even allergies.
Medication for certain illnesses also tends to cause constipation. This is especially documented in people going through therapy. About 16% of those going through this treatment experience chronic constipation.
The older we get, the more often we will experience functional constipation. This is mostly because our intestine’s microbial population (microbiota) changes with aging. This, in turn, alters our gut function.
How Probiotics Can Help
Laxatives have been traditionally used to address constipation. But it isn’t always effective. This is why experts are placing their hopes on probiotics.
As mentioned, constipation is caused by a lot of factors and underlying conditions. But two things they have in common are:
- a delayed gut transit time
- increased water absorption in the intestine which dries out the stool making it hard and lumpy
All these points to a messed up digestive process that alters the gut microbiota. In short, if your digestive system is working well, you can avoid most types of constipation. And this is where probiotics enter the picture.
Experts believe that probiotics have certain benefits that can help with constipation such as:
- modifying the intestinal microbiota
- altering gut function including sensation and motility
- increasing the production of lactate and short-chain fatty acids which helps shorten the overall gut transit time.
Aside from these, probiotics also help bring back a healthy balance of microorganisms in your gut. And it’s been proven that a balanced microbiota leads to a healthy digestive system.
Best Probiotic Strains for Constipation
To maximize the effects of probiotics, it’s important to take the right strain. You see, there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of probiotic strains. Each of them has different functions and benefits. If you take a strain that’s intended for acne, for example, don’t expect it to be effective against constipation.
Here are the probiotic strains that you should look for when addressing constipation:
Various studies have proven the effectivity of B. lactis against constipation.
In Brazil, 30 women suffering from constipation participated in a randomized controlled trial. They were divided into two groups. One group was given fresh cheese enriched with B. lactis for 30 days. The other served as a control group. Results showed that the women who were given probiotics have experienced beneficial effects against the symptoms of constipation.
While in China, 135 constipated women were given fermented milk with B. lactis. After two weeks, the beneficial effects of probiotics are starting to show. The women noticed improved stool consistency, frequency, and defecation condition.
A clinical trial conducted in chronically constipated patients showed how L. casei can help ease the symptoms of constipation. The trial lasted for 4 weeks during which the patients were given a probiotic beverage containing L. casei shirota. In the second week of the trial, the patients have already reported improved stool consistency and constipation symptoms. At the end of the trial, up to 89% of patients reported positive results.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the health benefits of probiotics and she wants to share that with the world. She also loves to write about healthy foods and other healthy living tips.