Can Probiotics Help With Constipation?

Constipation is a common digestive problem that can impact your quality of life. Probiotics are primarily dietary supplements that can improve health if taken in sufficient quantities. Their use on gastrointestinal problems is widespread, but are they effective? In this article, you'll learn about the efficacy of probiotics for constipation, including strain-specific effects.

Key takeaways:
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    Constipation can result from various factors, including diet, inactivity, and stress. Chronic constipation can be caused by different diseases. If constipation persists, consult a doctor for proper treatment.
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    Probiotics, living microorganisms, can help constipation by improving digestive health in various aspects, including modulating the gut microbiome, increasing stool frequency, and increasing gut transit time.
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    The effectiveness of probiotics depends on many factors, like probiotic formulations, individual gut microbiota, and overall health.
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    Although some studies show the benefits of using probiotics to relieve constipation, research has not found strong evidence for specific probiotic strains to treat constipation.
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    Dietary changes, including increased fiber, hydration, and exercise, can also help manage constipation.

Constipation is characterized by having fewer than three bowel movements in a week. People generally experience constipation for various reasons, including a low-fiber diet, a sedentary lifestyle, insufficient water intake, and stress.

Sometimes, constipation can also be a symptom of a disease such as celiac, inflammatory bowel diseases, hypothyroidism, some medications, and spinal cord and brain injuries.

Constipation can cause bloating, abdominal discomfort, and pain. It is also reported to lower quality of life and work productivity.

Constipation treatment can include dietary interventions and prescription or over-the-counter drugs. Most probiotics are dietary supplements that can help relieve constipation by modulating the gut microbiome.

Can probiotics help constipation?

Probiotics consist of living microorganisms that are naturally found in most fermented foods. They are also available as dietary supplements and drugs. Getting probiotics in enough quantities can help with some health issues, including gastrointestinal problems such as constipation.

People with constipation have been shown to have different gut microbiota composition than those without constipation. Research has shown that people with constipation have decreased Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and increased Bacteroidetes concentration.

Are probiotics effective in treating constipation?

Whether probiotics are effective in treating constipation depends on many factors, including the formulation of the probiotics (strains and amount) and individual factors such as gut microbiome composition, age, gender, genetics, and general health status.

The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) stated that there is insufficient evidence to recommend specific probiotic strains to help constipation. It also indicated that probiotics are generally safe, and people with constipation may try probiotics (unless their doctor advises them not to) for four weeks to see if they help their symptoms.

Probiotic strains that may help constipation

Probiotics are one of the most used dietary supplements by the public. Therefore, many companies produce probiotics to meet the demand.

Strain-specific effects should be investigated through randomized controlled trials to prove efficiency. While research has shown that some strains can be effective on constipation, others may not. You can choose reputable brands and make sure to check if the manufacturer does research to optimize their formula.

Research-backed strains to help constipation

Probiotics can contain various microorganisms, including bacteria and some yeast. The most commonly used beneficial bacteria are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.

Bifidobacteria

Although some research has been done to prove certain strains' impact on constipation, there is no conclusive evidence.

B. lactis DN-173010 has been shown to improve stool consistency and frequency in women with chronic constipation. As one study suggested, the strain can also decrease gut transit time (GTT). However, the evidence is inconclusive; some studies have shown no effects of B. lactis DN-173010 on constipation.

Lactobacillus

Lactobacillus is another genus of bacteria with many strains that can benefit gut health.

Although some evidence suggested that L. casei Shirota can decrease hard stool in patients with chronic constipation, others showed no significant difference between the groups taking placebo or probiotics.

Most studies have small sample sizes, and some have methodological limitations and biases. No strong evidence supports specific strain effects on constipation.

The effects of probiotics can vary based on individuals and the products used. As research shows, probiotics can serve some populations and not others. It's best to consult your doctor for personalized advice on your probiotic use.

Other ways to ease constipation

If you would like to improve your constipation, here are some other methods that may help:

  • Increasing fiber intake. Fiber is a carbohydrate found in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. According to the National Health Service, adults need around 30 grams of fiber to support a healthy heart, metabolism, and digestive health.
  • Avoiding foods with no or little fiber. Fast and highly processed foods can accelerate constipation. You can avoid foods with no or little fiber to ease constipation.
  • Staying hydrated. Drinking enough water and eating foods containing good amounts of water, such as fruits, vegetables, and clear soups, can help constipation by softening stool and allowing easier passage.
  • Being physically active. Bowel motility decreases in constipation. Regular exercise can increase bowel motility.

While probiotics may offer relief for some with constipation, evidence remains inconclusive. Individual factors play a pivotal role. Consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

You can prioritize fiber, hydration, and physical activity for better digestive health. If constipation doesn't resolve in a short period, consult with your doctor for proper treatment.

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