Do probiotics help with constipation?
Believe it or not constipation is more prevalent then diarrhoea according to Harvard Medical School, it affects more than 15% of the adult population constipation, it is more common than diarrhoea and affects approximately 14% of adults each year.
The good news for people who suffer from regular constipation is that probiotics do help with constipation, a study from the US Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a good quality probiotic can help to start and increase your bowel movements weekly making stools softer and not as hard to pass.
Why is this? Probiotics that contain Bifidobacterium and would seem to be the best formula to get your gut into better health and ease the constipation.
A number of studies have shown that microorganisms in our stomachs have been found to be associated with the contraction of muscles that are mixing and pushing the contents of the stomach into the gastrointestinal tract.
The same studies also show that these microorganisms Bifidobacterium & Lactobacillus are in short supply in people with constipation particularly adults.So, it makes perfect sense to use probiotics to relieve constipation.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are a live cultured beneficial bacterium found in yoghurts and many cultured foods, probiotics have been talked about for many years as a great aid for digestive problems, gut issues and constipation relief.
More recently probiotics have been touted for their ability to help with several health issues including:
- Losing weight
- Boosting the immune system
- Allergy relief
- Infectious diarrhoea relief
- Mental health issues
- Lowering cholesterol
What’s in a probiotic?
Probiotic supplements can be purchased in health food stores, supermarkets and online, there are several brands on the market that contain Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus these are the two most common types of the bacteria.
What causes constipation?
There are many reasons why you could be constipated, these are the most common:
- Under active thyroid
- Overuse of dairy products
- Not been physically active
- Eating disorder
- Changes in your diet
- Digestive system issues
- Colon cancer
- Strong medications iron tablets, antidepressants
- Laxative overuse
- Not eating enough fiber
- Medications and constipation
If one is taking a medication for an infection the combination can affect the balance of the bacteria in the digestive system, this disruption can cause constipation, probiotics can work to restore the balance in the digestive system and relieve constipation.
Remedies for constipation
You can buy over the counter remedies for constipation such as fiber supplements, osmotics, stimulants, stool softeners and lubricants, here is what each one does:
Fiber supplements: There are several brands that ad bulk to the stool making it easier to pass, fiber supplements that contain calcium polycarbophil (Equalactin or Fibercon) methylcellulose (Citrucel) and psyllium (Konsyl, Metamucil)
Osmotics: These laxatives are designed to help increase the secretion of fluid coming from the intestines stimulating bowel movement making it easier for the stool to move through the colon.
Stool softeners: These work by increasing the water flow from the intestines adding water to the stool making it softer, brands that contain docusate sodium (Surfak) and Docusate calcium.
Lubricants: Lubricants containing mineral oil allow the stool to pass through the colon easier.
Enemas & suppositories: These enemas are used in conjunction with tap water and soapsuds, may work sometimes to soften the stool and start a movement, suppositories like glycerine & bisacodyl provide stimulation and lubrication.
Stimulants: Stimulants make the intestines contract brands like Dulcolax, Correctol containing bisacodyl, and Senokot, Periderm, El-Lax containing sennosides.
I remember being told that prunes or orange juice were good laxatives for constipation, nowadays there are many choices of laxative products to solve the problem of constipation including stool softeners and laxatives. Feedback from customers seems to say that a lot of people have tried these over the counter laxative products, however the results were less than satisfactory.
Do probiotics help with constipation?
Let’s look at the studies and there are more than 14 of them according to the researchers at King’s College London, in one study it showed the connection between a lack of Bifidobacterium & Lactobacillus in patients with poor stool movement, when probiotic bacteria was introduced it stimulated intestinal motility in the human study.
This was also found to be the case in an animal study.
In all the clinical trials randomly assessed people suffering from constipation were given probiotics or a placebo in the controlled experiment.
The researchers correlated the findings of the studies and on average in people who took probiotics gut transit time was slowed down by 12,4 hours the bowel movements were increased by 1.3, stools were softer and passing stools was easier, the most effective probiotic contained Bifidobacterium, the study results have been made available in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Which specific probiotic is the best for constipation?
We need further clinical trials on a larger scale to determine which specific probiotic the best for constipation is, by experimenting on your own will you find the answer to the question “do probiotics help with constipation“. Probiotics are deemed to be a safe method to relieve constipation, the side effects are minimal, they are a dietary supplement are as such are not screened by the FDA, the best advice is to speak to your doctor before beginning probiotics for constipation.
General advice on probiotics
I have put together some information that may be helpful for you in deciding which brand of Probiotics is best for you
Speak to your doctor about your plan to take probiotics, your doctor may be well informed on the subject and may devise a digestive health plan for you.
Probiotics are available for women, men and children, keep this in mind as you browse offers, always read the label for ingredients.
Probiotic health supplements may seem expensive but having unhealthy digestion and constipation can cost money too, don’t expect results immediately, it could take up to 60 days in some cases for constipation relief.
Make sure you drink a lot of water during the treatment, don’t drink fizzy drinks, tea and juice are fine.
I can’t stress how important it is to keep your body hydrated during this period, drink up to 3 liters per day, this makes sure that your body is getting rid of unhealthy toxins and it is good for your skin.
You now have the knowledge regarding probiotics and how they can help with constipation and digestive system, here are details of the best probiotics available:
Best range of Probiotics for constipation