An estimated four million Americans report frequent constipation. It can be irritating or even downright debilitating when you experience symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. As a natural remedy, we recommend taking probiotics for constipation before turning to that bottle of laxative. What do the studies show regarding probiotics and constipation?
What Is Constipation?
First, let’s define what constipation is. A lot of people use the word synonymously with similar terms like diarrhea, bloating, and indigestion. Constipation is a medical condition that leads to infrequent and oftentimes difficult bowel movements. Surely, you’ve had moments in the loo when you just sit on the toilet for minutes on end because you’re straining really hard to “drop off the kids.” If this occurs regularly and lasts for weeks, then you suffer from constipation. With infrequent bowel movements come symptoms like bloating and gas.
Constipation itself is a symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or more specifically, irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C). This is an intestinal disorder that leads to abnormal colon contractions. Aside from stubborn stools, you may also experience stomachaches and cramping.
If you experience any of the following on a frequent or even intermittent interval, then you likely have constipation:
- Infrequent bowel movement (less than once a day)
- Rough stools
- Straining and/or pain during bowel movement
- Feeling of incomplete emptying after defecation
Do Probiotics Help with Constipation?
Let’s explore the probiotics constipation connection. Rough stools are often a sign that your body lacks digestive bacteria. The gut is home to a microbiome of good bacteria numbering in the trillions. Factors like a poor diet and exposure to airborne pollutants can upset the balance of good to bad bacteria ratio.
The goal, then, is to introduce more probiotics into the gut by taking a probiotic supplement, eating probiotic-rich foods, or a combination of both.
This outline seems logical, but does it really pan out when held under scientific scrutiny? Let’s find out.
In a meta-analysis published under the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined a compilation of 14 studies on the effects of probiotics on constipation. They discovered that subjects in the trial experienced an average of 1.3x more bowel movements compared to a placebo group. The probiotics also slowed gut transit time, allowing for greater food breakdown.
This suggests that the use of probiotics may lead to digestive relief and less straining during bowel movements. In other words, probiotics help you poop.
How Probiotics Aid in Constipation
Do you know how stools form in the first place? How does the lunch and dinner that enter your mouth exit your anus as poop? As food enters your digestive tracts, the saliva and stomach acids break down the protein, fat, and carbs. Most of the nutrients are absorbed in the small intestines. Any waste and unusable components are transported to the large intestines. This is where stools are formed with the aid of probiotics. The intestines also extract water from the waste to produce solid waste material. The stools you see in the toilet bowl are remnants of digested food, mucus, cellular linings, bile salts, and dead bacteria (good and bad).
If there are insufficient quantities of probiotics, then the system is disrupted, resulting in constipation.
What’s the Best Probiotic for Constipation?
The aforementioned meta-analysis also determined that the Bifidobacterium strain appeared to be the most effective for treating constipation. There are numerous studies corroborating this. One study showed that Bifidobacterium was especially effective for acute constipation. Another study in China found that Bifidobacterium in fermented milk effectively alleviated functional constipation in women.
Bifidobacterium, though, shouldn’t get all the glory. Another study found that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri was useful against irritable bowel syndrome and colic in infants.
Our personal conclusion is that there is no single best probiotic for constipation. We believe strains like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus work best in the presence of other strains. Studies suggest multi-strains may have a synergistic effect and be more effective than a single strain probiotic.
UMZU’s Floracil50 is a multi-strain probiotic that contains several sub-strains belonging to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium family.
Can Probiotics Cause Constipation?
Is it possible that probiotics can have the opposite effect and actually induce constipation instead? Even some vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are known to cause the symptoms they’re intended to cure. Probiotics are no exception. Of course, this is only often the case when taken in excess.
Some people have indeed reported constipation as a side effect. However, this usually only occurs in two instances. It only arises among first-time users and those who exceed dosage recommendations. For first-time users, the symptoms almost always go away after the first day or two. In the initial phase, however, some people may experience nausea, bloating, heartburn, and stomach cramps.
Probiotics for Constipation: Our Final Thoughts
An increasing body of research now suggests that the gut is linked to other areas of health in one way or another. This includes your mental faculties. Constipation is a dead giveaway that something is not right with your gut health. As such, the rest of your health is probably not functioning at their peak either. Probiotics restore the gut microbiome balance, thereby directly and indirectly benefiting your health as a whole.