Probiotics are good bacteria that are similar to health-promoting microorganisms that naturally live in our gut. And many fermented foods like yogurt contain these health-promoting bacteria. They have been found to have many benefits, particularly where your digestive health is concerned. For instance, some probiotic bacteria have been found to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and help tackle diarrhea caused by infections. But can they also make you poop or help ease constipation? Turns out they can!
Here’s a closer look at how probiotics may help if you have constipation. They:
1. Help Increase The Frequency Of Pooping
One research overview observed the effect of probiotics on bowel movements in 14 studies and found that probiotics overall could increase stool frequency significantly – by as many as 1.3 bowel movements a week. The probiotic bacteria Bifidobacterium lactis was particularly effective as it caused an increase of 1.5 bowel movements a week. It’s worth mentioning that laxatives usually cause an increase of 2.5 bowel movements per week. So probiotics might be a more natural alternative for normalizing bowel frequency in people with functional constipation.
2. Regulate Time Taken For Food To Pass Through Your Digestive System
The food that you eat needs to move from your stomach through your small intestine and your large intestine. The time taken to do this is known as “whole gut transit time.” If food passes through your guts faster than normal, you won’t be able to absorb nutrients properly; on the other hand, if it passes through too slowly, too much water will be drawn out of it, making it hard to pass and causing constipation.1 Here’s where probiotics may help.
Research shows that they can shorten whole gut transit time. A study that looked at the effect of consuming Bifidobacterium lactis in yogurt on whole gut transit time found that not only did it decrease whole gut transit time significantly, it also reduced the frequency of symptoms like constipation, irregular bowel movements, and flatulence two-folds when compared to the control group which took a placebo.2
3. Soften Stools
Probiotics can improve stool consistency and make stools less hard. Various probiotic bacteria may be beneficial in this regard. One study found that a fermented milk drink containing Lactobacillus casei Shirota resulted in a significant decrease in stool hardening.3 Other research indicates that having Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria combined with either Bifidobacterium breve or Bifidobacterium animalis can soften hard stools, improve ease of stool evacuation, and increase the number of bowel movements per week. It was also found to improve symptoms associated with constipation such as bloating and anal burning or pain.4
4. Improve Symptoms Associated With Constipation
As we just saw, Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria combined with either Bifidobacterium breve or Bifidobacterium animalis has been found to improve many underlying causes associated with constipation. Research has found that Bifidobacterium lactis can also help ease stool expulsion and improve symptoms such as bloating, hard stools, and the sensation of not emptying your bowels completely.5
Not All Probiotics Are Equal
If you’re planning to take a probiotic supplement to manage constipation, it’s important to remember that all probiotic bacteria do not have the same effects. For instance, if Bifidobacterium lactis is able to increase the frequency of bowel movements, it’s not necessary that other probiotic bacteria would have a similar effect. So check the strain of probiotic bacteria that you’re consuming to make sure that it’ll be beneficial in your case. And as always, when in doubt, speak to your doctor.6 It is also a good idea to increase your intake of probiotic foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut which boost your digestive health and the number of good bacteria in your stomach.
Probiotics May Not Be Safe If Your Immune System Is Weak
Probiotics have been found to be safe for people who are healthy though they may sometimes cause mild side effects like gas. However, they have been linked to extreme side effects like the development of dangerous infections in people with compromised immune systems, critically ill people, those who’ve just had surgery, and very sick babies.7 So refrain from using probiotics if you have serious health issues.
|↑1||Gut transit time can be big indicator of your digestive health. The Daily Telegraph.|
|↑2, ↑5||Waller, Philip A., Pramod K. Gopal, Gregory J. Leyer, Arthur C. Ouwehand, Cheryl Reifer, Morgan E. Stewart, and Larry E. Miller. “Dose-response effect of Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 on whole gut transit time and functional gastrointestinal symptoms in adults.” Scandinavian journal of gastroenterology 46, no. 9 (2011): 1057-1064.|
|↑3||Tilley, Linde, Katleen Keppens, Akira Kushiro, Toshihiko Takada, Takafumi Sakai, Mario Vaneechoutte, and Bart Degeest. “A probiotic fermented milk drink containing Lactobacillus Casei strain Shirota improves stool consistency of subjects with hard stools.” International Journal of Probiotics & Prebiotics 9, no. 1/2 (2014): 23.|
|↑4||Del Piano, Mario, Stefania Carmagnola, Andrea Anderloni, Silvano Andorno, Marco Ballarè, Marco Balzarini, Franco Montino et al. “The use of probiotics in healthy volunteers with evacuation disorders and hard stools: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.” Journal of clinical gastroenterology 44 (2010): S30-S34.|
|↑6, ↑7||Probiotics: In Depth. National Institutes of Health.|