Do Probiotics Help With Constipation?

Constipation can really get you down. And often it’s hard to know what the cause is. You might have tried upping your fiber intake and hydrating more, but what about taking probiotics? Can probiotics help with constipation? Read on to find out.

Key Takeaways

  • The importance of gut health cannot be overstated. It not only affects symptoms like gas and bloating but also has a significant impact on overall health. Good gut health allows for better nutrient absorption, which can benefit the immune system and brain health.
  • Probiotics can potentially help with constipation by increasing stool transit time, improving stool consistency, reducing IBS symptoms, and supporting gut lining health.
  • The quality of probiotic products, such as CFU count and shelf stability, should also be considered. While there is mixed evidence on the effectiveness of probiotics for constipation, they are generally beneficial for gut health and may help reduce IBS symptoms

The Importance Of Gut Health

It’s hard to overstate the importance of having good gut health. Not only does a healthy gut mean you are less likely to suffer from annoying symptoms such as gas and bloating – but also, gut health affects your general health too.

When you have good gut health you can absorb the nutrients from your food better which can affect everything from your immune system to your brain health.

Having a wide range of beneficial gut microbes means you’re less likely to suffer from conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and premature aging.

In fact, gut health is so important that it’s been linked to longevity. Many people living in longevity hotspots around the world have been shown to have a more diverse gut microbiome than the average person in the Western world. (Source)

This is likely because they prioritize a plant-rich fiber-filled diet, maintain an active, low-stress lifestyle, and avoid overconsuming processed foods. 

For many of us living busy, modern lives, gut health issues are common. This can result from needing to take multiple courses of strong antibiotics, gut infections picked up abroad, lots of stress, and insufficient fiber.

But luckily we can take steps to redress these issues, which can help us to both prevent and treat conditions such as constipation.

The Role Of Probiotics

probiotic supplementation

Probiotics are living organisms that set up camp in your large intestines. Here, they perform crucial everyday roles in your body.

They consume the fiber in your diet which allows them to thrive. They then try to outnumber any harmful, and pathogenic bacteria which are residing in your gut.

They also have their own individual roles such as communicating with your brain via the gut-brain axis to help modulate neurotransmitter activity and serotonin production.

Some probiotic strains also help to enhance your immune function by stimulating your body’s innate immune response whilst preventing a harmful, overactive cytokine storm. (Source)

Other probiotics support your estrobolome – your hormone – gut bacteria interface, to help regulate the amount of estrogen your body produces and uses.  And if that wasn’t enough, some probiotic strains help to dampen harmful inflammatory responses and reduce your risk of cognitive decline. (Source)

So you can start to see just how pivotal a role probiotics play in your body. And this is before we talk about the ability of probiotics to reduce annoying symptoms such as gas and bloating, as well as reducing IBS symptom severity.

What Causes Constipation?

Constipation has many causes. It can be an acute issue that lasts a couple of days or it can become chronic.

Acute constipation is caused by things like medication use, diet or lifestyle changes, hormonal fluctuations, or other temporary factors.

Chronic constipation may be caused by a disease, or it may be described as functional in nature. Functional constipation occurs without any obvious disease or anatomical cause.

Here, it can result from things like IBS, or lifestyle factors. It can also result from an imbalance of good gut bacteria or a generally unhealthy microbiome.

Insufficient fiber intake, dehydration, and being sedentary are often also key factors in the development of constipation.

Common Constipation Symptoms

Constipation involves having three or fewer bowel movements per week, which may be difficult to pass. Stools can often be hard and you may strain to pass stool too.

Many people with constipation can also feel a sense of incomplete evacuation after going to the toilet as well.

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Why Do Probiotics Help With Constipation?

Probiotics can potentially help with constipation in a number of ways. They may be able to increase the transit time of stool which means you should not go too long without having a bowel movement.

They may also improve the consistency of your stool so that they are less hard to pass. You can think of probiotics as helping to find a happy middle ground – so having stools that are not too hard or too soft.

Probiotics can also help you with IBS symptoms including altered bowel mobility. Furthermore, they can help to reduce symptoms of bloating or gas which can also occur during constipation.

And finally, probiotics can help to support the health of your gut lining – by producing something called short-chain fatty acids.

These can help to prevent a leaky gut which has its own set of side effects and can increase inflammation in the body too.

How Long Will It Take For Probiotics To Help With Constipation?

Probiotics Help With Constipation

How long it takes for your probiotics to start reducing your constipation symptoms depends on what is causing it. If a gut microbiome dysbiosis is the cause then you might see results quite quickly once this has been reduced through probiotic use.

But if your constipation is also resulting from poor diet or insufficient fluid intake, you’ll need to rectify these issues too to get the best results.

Remember that alongside your probiotic intake, you’ll need to increase your prebiotic usage too. This is because without sufficient prebiotics your new probiotics cannot thrive in their environment.

So either choose a probiotic that has a prebiotic combined and therefore acts as a symbiotic, or focus on increasing your intake of onions, garlic, green bananas, and more.

If your probiotics don’t seem to be working – it’s worth considering the quality of your product. For example, does it have a good CFU count?

Whilst this isn’t the most important factor when choosing your product – having a very low CFU can indicate your probiotics may not be effective.

Also, consider whether the product is shelf stable or not – as some probiotic products don’t survive their journey to your gut. You can increase your chance of success by using a product that has been flash-dried – such as a probiotic powder.

This means the probiotics are shelf-stable and can then be easily reactivated with the addition of water. This way you can have a higher chance that your probiotics will help with your constipation.

Are Probiotics Good For Constipation?

There is mixed evidence on the ability of probiotics to reduce constipation. Some studies show that they can help to increase stool transit time and that they may also benefit from improving the consistency of the stool for easier elimination. (Source)

However, other studies have shown less promising results. This may be because constipation can be caused by lots of different things so simply taking probiotics may not be enough to reduce your symptoms. (Source)

You may also need to increase your fiber and water intake, exercise more, and treat any relevant medical conditions.

But as probiotics play such a key role in improving the health of your gut – it stands to reason that they are a beneficial addition to your wellness routine. (Source)

And, if your constipation is caused by IBS and probiotics may be able to help reduce the severity of your symptoms too. (Source)

So if you are keen to tackle your constipation head-on – start with a food-first approach, but don’t be afraid to add in a high-quality probiotic powder to help you on your way.

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