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What to Look for in Probiotics for Constipation

Suffer from Constipation? Are probiotics right for you?

Are you suffering from constipation? If so, you’re not alone! Constipation is a common digestive issue that affects millions of people every year. If you’ve ever experienced constipation, you know how uncomfortable and frustrating it can be, especially when you’ve tried so many different remedies for constipation. You’ve probably even considered taking probiotics, but weren’t sure what to look for.

What is “Constipation”?

Constipation is a common digestive issue that affects millions of people each year. It is characterized by hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass and/or having bowel movements less than 3 times per week. Ideally, having at least 1 bowel movement daily can help support our body’s detox system. Constipation symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, and a feeling of fullness.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed, have health benefits, especially for the digestive system. Probiotics can consist of a variety of microorganisms that may have different effects on the body. They can be purchased as supplements or found in fermented foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso and others.

How can probiotics help with constipation?

The human digestive system contains billions of bacteria that play a vital role in digestion. These bacteria help to break down food, absorb nutrients, and support the immune system. An imbalance of these bacteria may lead to digestive problems, including constipation. 

Probiotics can help to restore the balance of bacteria in the gut, making them an effective remedy for constipation. Data shows differences in the gut microbiome of healthy individuals versus those with chronic constipation. Probiotics may help to promote colonic motility by increasing the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut and rebalancing the gut microbiome towards that of a healthy individual . Probiotics can also lower the pH in the colon, which can stimulate peristalsis in the colon and might reduce the colonic transit time and they can also promote the production of short-chain fatty acids which in turn stimulate colonic contractions and reduce inflammation. 

Furthermore, probiotic foods can help improve our gut microbiome diversity because their fermentation breeds beneficial bacteria that help grow and support our healthy gut bacteria. This can help to improve the consistency of stools and make them easier to pass.

If you decide to take probiotics for constipation, it’s important to remember that they won’t work overnight. In most cases, it can take a few weeks or even months to see results, but it’s important to be consistent with your dosage.

What the Research Says:

  • Studies show that overall, probiotics improve whole gut transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency, while regulating the gut microbiome. 
  • A systematic review showed that in adults, Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010, Lactobacillus casei Shirota, and Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 have beneficial effects on treatment on bowel movement frequency and stool consistency. 
  • Furthermore, research shows that adults with constipation have significantly reduced levels of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus in their gut microbiome, but after supplementing with specific probiotics to create a more balanced and healthy gut microbiome, constipation was improved by promoting intestinal peristalsis and stool frequency.

What to look for in probiotics for constipation?

When it comes to taking probiotics for constipation, it’s important to choose the right type. Different strains of probiotics can help with different digestive issues. 

Probiotic strains for constipation:

Based on research, probiotic supplements that contain Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium animalis, Lactobacillus casei would have beneficial effects on constipation relief. PrebioMed XOS from Designs for Health or Probiotic GI by Pure Encapsulations include several of these different strains.

Quality

Because they’re classified as food products, supplements aren’t regulated by the strict standards, like drugs. That’s why it’s important to find probiotic supplements that have quality ingredients and come from reputable companies that have tested their products. That’s why I buy my supplements from Fullscript because I know these companies are reputable.* 

Quantity

Millions of probiotic bacteria are good, but billions are better. For overall gut health, it’s recommended to start with at least 30 billion CFUs, or colony-forming units of probiotics. Know exactly how much of each bacteria you’re getting, by searching for a list of CFUs per strain on the bottle, especially on those products with multiple strains.

Storage

Be sure you know which products or strains require refrigeration. Poor storage at home or during shipping can destroy the beneficial probiotics. 

What to Avoid

Avoid probiotic products containing gluten, dairy, soy, and yeast, as these may lead to inflammation or additional side effects, depending on the individual.

If you are taking any medications or have certain medical conditions, always talk with your primary care physician or healthcare provider before consuming supplements or probiotics. 

Nutrition and Lifestyle Recommendations for Constipation

Probiotics aren’t the only thing that can help with constipation. If you’re taking probiotics, but are still eating high-fat meals, high-sugar foods, or highly processed foods and not drinking enough water, constipation may continue. Here are some additional things to add to improve constipation:

High Fiber Diet for Constipation:

Eating a diet high in soluble and insoluble fiber can help bulk up the stool and get things moving in your gut. Adults should consume 25-35 grams of fiber daily. But eating excessive amounts of fiber, more than 70 grams per day, could lead to constipation. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits and nuts. Prebiotic fiber, like onions, bananas, and oats, help feed the healthy gut microbiome.

Consuming aloe vera for constipation:

Aloe vera contains a natural laxative that can increase intestinal motility speed, which may improve constipation. Aloe is also soothing on the gut and reduces gut inflammation and bloating. You can buy aloe vera juice with minimal added sugar or make it fresh from the aloe vera plant.

Magnesium supplements for constipation:

Magnesium is essential in several enzymatic reactions throughout the body and especially vital throughout the digestive process, from producing enzymes to creating hormones needed to signal digestion. This mineral powers the peristaltic movement that moves food along your gut as it gets digested. Deficiency in magnesium can lead to sluggish bowels, constipation, and stomach cramps. Studies show magnesium oxide to be an effective method to improve motility and stool formation.

Daily movement:

Other than nutrition, daily movement can help get “things” moving in your gut. Simple walks can help contract muscles. The bending and twisting from yoga stretches, like side bending, downward dog, or standing forward bend, massages the digestive tract to relax the gut and keep things moving.

*Affiliation Disclaimer. Please note that I am an affiliate for some of the products mentioned on this page. If you click my affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a percentage of the sale.

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Paulina Lee is a functional and integrative dietitian, who specializes in gut health and IBS. She works with women looking for long-term relief from IBS so they can get back to what's important to them - their life, work, and relationships.

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