Do Probiotics Make You Poop?

We all know that probiotics have a reputation for improving your gut health – but do they actually help to get things going when you are constipated? Let’s delve into the topic and examine whether probiotics make you poop.

Key Takeaways

  • Probiotics are living organisms that can improve gut health by maintaining a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria. They can be consumed through various foods and supplements.
  • While probiotics may help with constipation, the effectiveness depends on the specific strains and underlying causes.
  • Probiotics can also help regulate diarrhea caused by antibiotic use or exposure to harmful bacteria. In cases of IBS-induced constipation, probiotics may support gut motility and improve stool consistency.

Well, it may all depend on the type of probiotic you take, as well as what is causing your infrequent bowel movements.

Here we explore which types of probiotics may be the most beneficial if you suffer from constipation, as well as how to select the right probiotic for your needs.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are living organisms which populate your large intestines. They each perform important roles in your body and are able to keep your body in a state of health when present in sufficient quantities and varieties.

You consume probiotics via the foods you eat, from the first of your mothers milk, to the live yogurts, kimchis and kombuchas you eat later in life.

Many of us suffer depletions or disturbances to our microbiome during life. This can occur through exposure to medications such as antibiotics, low-fiber diets (which deplete the probiotics of their fuel source), and gut infections.

This can lead many people to suffer from a less than-optimal gut environment, with poor variety and quantity of beneficial microbes. This also promotes an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, which left unchecked, can see them taking over and causing havoc for your health.

Studies conducted on the longest-living individuals around the world have established that such individuals have very diverse microbiomes which likely arise from their varied, mostly unprocessed diets, rich in fiber and naturally fermented foods such as homemade dairy and bread. (Source)

But for many of us, the best way to achieve such a microbiome is to combine a food-first approach with a high-quality probiotic supplement to support our health from the inside out.

Do Probiotics Make You Poop?

Do Probiotics Make You Poop

The evidence on this is a bit mixed. Some studies suggest that taking specific probiotic strains can reduce the time it tastes for waste to pass through your GI tract – leading to a reduced risk of constipation. (Source)

But, other probiotic strains don’t appear to make much difference in this regard. There’s also some evidence to suggest that probiotics can improve the consistency of your bowel movements, making them easier to pass. But it seems as if in order to make conclusive recommendations we need more evidence to evaluate the efficacy of various different strains. (Source)

That being said, anecdotal evidence suggests many people notice a reduction in constipation when they first start taking probiotics. This can be because the good bacteria starts to outnumber the bad bacteria and this can lead to a potential ‘die off’ of these strains – which can cause an increase in bowel movement frequency and volume.

But this does tend to settle down with time, especially when your gut gets used to its new inhabitants. If you are worried about a sudden increase in bowel movements it can be a good idea to start slowly with your new probiotic routine to reduce any potential effects of this nature.

We’ve talked a lot about how probiotics can help to improve bowel mobility and support you with constipation, but it’s also useful to know that they can help to regulate things if you find yourself going to the toilet a bit too often.

This is because probiotics have a positive effect on diarrhea too. Probiotics are particularly good at helping reduce these annoying issues when they are caused either by antibiotic use or through a bacteria you have been exposed to when traveling. (Source)

Probiotics can help to reduce your diarrhea symptoms in these two cases because both are linked to a state of unbalance in the gut.

For example, antibiotic use can kill off the beneficial bacteria leading you with an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria that can cause diarrhea. And similarly, travelers’ diarrhea results from exposure to different types of harmful bacteria – which can be made worse if you lack sufficient beneficial bacteria.

This is why your doctor may recommend you take probiotics a week or two before traveling abroad – or alongside any antibiotic treatments you may receive (you’ll need to take them at a different time of day to your antibiotics though to remain effective).

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Probiotics And IBS

Even though probiotics cannot be truly classed as laxatives, they may be able to support people with IBS-induced constipation. A common cause of IBS, whether constipation is predominant or mixed is a type of gut dysbiosis.

This means you likely have too much unhelpful bacteria in proportion to helpful bacteria which can affect your gut motility and lead to issues such as constipation and bloating.

Studies have indicated that when you consume probiotic bacteria you can help to improve the consistency of your stool – helping it to pass more easily, and certain probiotic strains can even improve your intestinal mucus production, when again can help with easier transit and elimination. (Source)

And aside from bowel motility issues, there’s good evidence to show that probiotics can help to reduce IBS symptom severity generally, whether that’s bloating, urgency or discomfort. (Source)

This may result from a beneficial increase in gut microbiome diversity following probiotic supplementation, but it also can be linked to improvements in gut lining integrity following an increase in short-chain fatty acid production.

So, all in all, if you currently suffer from IBS then a good quality probiotic supplement should become a part of your daily treatment plan.

Selecting The Right Probiotic

Sportsman holding bottle with probiotics

When it comes to which probiotic strain to choose to help you poop – the answer is less clear.

Whilst strains such as Bifidobacterium lactis have shown some promise in improving constipation symptoms, there’s not currently enough evidence to reveal exactly which strains would be most beneficial for each particular scenario. (Source)

For example, if your inability to poop regularly stems from IBS – we currently don’t have enough data to show that you’d be likely to get a beneficial response from a particular strain.

With that being said, there is good evidence to suggest that taking a variety of strains belonging to the bifidobacteria and lactobacillus strains will offer you a range of health benefits – including gut health improvements.

And luckily, these are two of the most commonly used probiotic strains added to commercially available probiotic products. So, you are likely to find these in whichever product you choose.

In terms of how to select the right probiotic for improving both your gut and general health – you might like to consider the following points.

The CFU Count

CFU’s are short for the colony-forming unit of a product. It’s essentially when a sample of your probiotic is taken, and an estimation of how many live probiotic bacteria they contain within them is calculated.

This helps to show you how many live bacteria you can expect to receive per serving.

Whilst a higher number can indicate a good quality product, it’s just as important to make sure that the product contains a few different strains (as diversity is key for gut health) and that the product is shelf stable and likely to be effective when activated.

Its Shelf Stability

The annoying reality is that many probiotic products are not designed with longevity in mind.

This means that many of the beneficial probiotic strains they claim to provide don’t end up making it to where they need to be – which is your large intestines, alive.

This can be because they have been stored incorrectly, or perhaps were exposed to too extreme temperature variations. Remember that probiotics are living organisms and they cannot cope with extremes.

But, the good news is that some of the newer probiotic powders on the market are designed to be much more stable and can be stored out of the fridge.

This is because they are usually flash dried and then they can be stored on the shelf safely before being reactivated with the addition of a little water.

Whether It Contains A Prebiotic Or Not

Synbiotics = Prebiotics + Probiotics

You’ve probably heard of prebiotics before – and for good reason.

You can think of prebiotics as the food probiotics need to both survive and thrive. They work together as a team, and one is not much good without the other.

You can definitely get prebiotics from your diet but it can be hard to get enough on a daily basis, and most of us simply don’t get enough fiber-rich foods in our diet.

Prebiotics are found in a range of foods including onions, garlic, oats, and green bananas. But some probiotics contain prebiotics too, turning them into synbiotic supplements which offer you the best chance of your probiotics surviving.

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