Probiotics Help To Relieve Constipation And Its Symptoms
Apart from helping to soften stool and increase the number of times a week that you poop, probiotics can help with the complications of constipation.
Suffering from infrequent bowel movements can make going to the bathroom very difficult and it can cause varying accompanying symptoms. However, regularly taking high-quality probiotics can help to ease the pain while passing stool and resolve stomach bloating, gas, and stomach spasms .
The journal Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica reported that probiotics helped patients to pass stool more frequently in the week. In addition, taking probiotics also helped to reduce bloating, abdominal cramping, and the sensation of incomplete emptying. The study found that probiotics with L. casei Shirota bacteria were the most beneficial for helping constipation.
Research into easing constipation symptoms in the elderly has also shown that probiotics can treat constipation. The Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics published a systematic review of 9 studies into probiotics for treating constipation symptoms in older people.
The study concluded that probiotics improved constipation in elderly people by 1040% compared to placebo controls in which no probiotic was used.
Probiotics May Cause Allergic Reactions Such As Rash Or Itchy Skin
Although probiotics can help to reduce symptoms of allergies, some people find that the type of probiotic they take causes skin itching or a rash.
The reason for some probiotic supplements causing side effects of itchy skin or a rash is usually down to other ingredients in the supplements. For example, in 2012 researchers found that probiotic supplements that contain dairy product can cause allergic reactions in some individuals.
Some types of probiotics are also yeast based and if you have a yeast allergy, you should avoid these. For example, probiotics containing Saccharomyces boulardii can cause digestive upset in people who are allergic to yeast.
So, if you suffer from pre-existing allergies, you should carefully check the ingredients in probiotic supplements. Remember that probiotics can contain a number of different strains of healthy bacteria and may also include yeast-based probiotics.
Possible Side Effects Of Probiotics
Probiotics are living bacteria and yeasts that provide health benefits when consumed in large amounts.
They can be taken as supplements or consumed naturally through fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha .
The health benefits of probiotic supplements and foods have been well documented, including a lower risk of infections, improved digestion and even a reduced risk for some chronic diseases .
While there are many health benefits linked to taking probiotics, there can also be side effects. Most of these are minor and only affect a small percentage of the population.
However, some people with serious illnesses or compromised immune systems may experience more severe complications.
This article reviews the most common side effects of probiotics and how to reduce them.
Take Probiotics Before Bedtime
Taking probiotics immediately before bedtime on an empty stomach may help to reduce gas and bloating. Your gut is relatively inactive at night, but probiotics can produce gas when combined with certain foods. Taking food on an empty stomach ensures that the probiotics dont have any obstacles in the way, which also allows more of the live bacteria to reach your large intestines.14
The Role Of Gut Bacteria In Constipation
The bacteria in the gut, our gut microbiota, play many crucial roles in the health of the digestive system. The gut bacteria produce substances, called lactate and short chain fatty acids, that change the pH of the intestine. This can increase peristalsis , reduce transit time and improve stool frequency. Dysbiosis, which is an imbalanced gut microbiota, contributes to constipation.
Individuals with constipation often have significantly different gut bacteria composition than non-constipated healthy people, with higher levels of methane producing bacteria in their intestines, which slows intestinal transit time. A balanced microbiota can reduce methane production, alter gut function, improve stool consistency and frequency, and help with constipation symptoms, including bloating, abdominal discomfort and pain.
Related: 6 Secrets Of People Who Poop Perfectly
Pharmacy shelves are packed to the gills with different types of laxatives. At first glance, they might seem like the magic wand you need to make your poop-less bathroom visits disappear. But not all of these meds are created equal, and depending on them too much for relief can do more harm than good. “Your body can get used to relying on stimulant laxatives, like Dulcolax and Senna, in order to have a bowel movement if these types of laxatives are used on a long-term basis, as your colon can lose the ability to contract on its own,” says Shah. This is just one of a host of side effects associated with prolonged laxative use, which include electrolyte imbalances, seizures, heart arrhythmias, muscle aches, and more.
To be on the safe side, follow the dosing instructions on the box, and don’t use any type of laxative for more than a week or two without telling your doctor first. They might recommend that you take a different type of laxative or fiber-bulking agents instead. According to James-Stevenson, these are “considered safe for short- and long-term treatment of constipation symptoms.” Regular probiotic use can safely stave off difficult dumps, too.
If altering your diet or activity isn’t solving your poop problems at the end of the day, don’t wave it off: “A change in your bowel habits can sometimes be a sign of something more ominous occurring with your health, such as colorectal cancer,” says Chen. “If you notice a consistent change, inform your doctor.”
Adding New Foods Especially High Iron Baby Cereals & Dairy
When babies reach the 6 month age, you begin to introduce them to new foods such as rice cereal, pureed fruits and vegetables. If your provide your baby with a rice cereal and they get too much iron, they can become constipated. Bananas, white grains and too much dairy are another common cause of constipation in babies.
Other Problems Aside From Constipation That Are Linked To Probiotics
Other issues that you may experience from using probiotics include issues such as gas and bloating.
This is a common one when youre taking probiotics for the first time.
The main reason for this happening is that your body is not used to an increased amount of probiotic activity in your gut. Your digestive system is not breaking down the food your absorbing completely with the end result being increased amounts of gas in your system.
Usually, these effects disappear after the first few days after your body adjusts to it all however, if you want to speed up the process, reducing your daily intake of probiotics can reduce the effects until you adjust.
Other solutions include taking probiotics on an empty stomach before bed, or taking digestive enzyme supplements to help with the breakdown of food.
Diarrhea is another problem. This again can come from increased probiotic activity in your gut. Usually, the solve for this is to stay hydrated and to give it time for your body to adjust. If diarrhea persists for over two weeks you should cease taking the probiotics in question immediately.
Probiotics can also cause headaches. This is mainly because probiotics contain large amounts of amines. Some people who are sensitive to amines may get stimulated central nervous systems which can lead to headaches.
What Does Gut Transit Time Mean
The time it takes for the food contents to travel though the digestive tract is called the transit time. One of the main functions of the large intestine is to reabsorb water from the food waste to form the stool. If the transit time is slow, the stool will spend a longer time in the large intestine and become harder, drier and more difficult to evacuate.
Transit time is affected by numerous factors including:
- Our gut microbiota composition and balance
- Methane production by specific gut bacteria
- Low digestive muscle tone or low sensitivity to nervous system stimulation
- Lack of fiber
- Delayed stomach emptying
Can Probiotics Cause Diarrhea Yes But
As we have shown, probiotics can induce diarrhea. However, once you get past the adjustment phase, it becomes a nonissue. While probiotics and diarrhea are inextricably linked, the former is a long-term solution for smoother stools. In other words, probiotics reduce diarrhea far more than they induce it.
The Additional Benefits Of Prebiotics
In addition to probiotics, it is worth mentioning that prebiotics may also be helpful in relieving occasional constipation. Prebiotics act as a food source for the probiotics and help to stimulate the activity of beneficial colonic bacteria. They are thought to have a small laxative effect, but with no risk of dependency. A combination of the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® and prebiotic fibres are widely recognised as an effective remedy to help alleviate constipation and maintain normal bowel function.
When Taken In Excess Probiotics Can Be Dangerous
People at higher risk for adverse effects, like infection, of taking too many probiotics are those with serious illnesses or weakened immune systems, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
If you fall into either of those categories, it’s important to consult your doctor before taking probiotics.
Some Strains Can Increase Histamine Levels
Some bacterial strains used in probiotic supplements can produce histamine inside the digestive tract of humans .
Histamine is a molecule that is normally produced by your immune system when it detects a threat.
When histamine levels rise, blood vessels dilate to bring more blood to the affected area. The vessels also become more permeable so that immune cells can easily get into the relevant tissue to combat any pathogens .
This process creates redness and swelling in the affected area, and can also trigger allergy symptoms such as itching, watery eyes, runny nose or trouble breathing.
Normally, histamine that is produced in your digestive tract is naturally degraded by an enzyme called diamine oxidase . This enzyme inhibits histamine levels from rising enough to cause symptoms .
However, some people with histamine intolerance have trouble properly breaking down the histamine in their bodies, seeing as they do not produce enough DAO .
The excess histamine is then absorbed through the lining of the intestinal tract and into the bloodstream, causing symptoms similar to an allergic reaction (
Theoretically, they may want to select probiotic supplements that do not contain histamine-producing bacteria, but to date, there has been no research on this specific area.
Some histamine-producing probiotic strains include Lactobacillus buchneri, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus hilgardii and Streptococcus thermophilus .
Titrate Probiotics In Slowly To Minimize Side Effects
To avoid any potential side effects of probiotics, as with any natural supplement, I recommend introducing probiotics in slowly. Titrating in gradually is particularly relevant for higher strength products. This often means breaking open a capsule and sprinkling out a small amount before building up to a more standard dosage. By titrating slowly, youll typically avoid any major reactions and will be able to reduce the dosage to the last tolerated amount. Once your body is comfortable, you can slowly increase the dosage.
The same goes for the probiotic-rich foods mentioned above like sauerkraut and kimchi. We like to start clients on small amounts of coconut kefir, before building up to fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, and so on.
Consume Castor Oil As A Natural Laxative
Castor oil is a natural laxative. There is actually scientific proof that castor oil makes passing stool easier and can help with chronic constipation.
A study from 2011 reported that taking castor oil for chronic constipation helps to soften stool consistency, makes pooping easier, and gives a feeling of completely emptying your bowels.
So Are You Ready To Dump It Good
Studies are still being conducted as you read this, primarily in determining which combination of strains can quickly cure constipation. At this moment, Bifidobacterium is the important strain that should be included in your supplements formula.
Our choice for the best probiotic to treat constipation is FloraTrust 4000. It has multiple strains including Bifidobacterium, which goes beyond constipation relief. And with 100 capsules per bottle, youre literally getting more than what youre paying for.
Temporarily Increase Gas Bloating And May Cause Stomach Pain
You may find that as well as helping to relieve constipation symptoms, probiotics may temporarily increase certain digestive conditions.
When you start taking probiotics, you may find that you have more gas, bloating and occasional stomach cramping. It is not known why probiotics cause gas or may result in stomach pain. However, these side effects of probiotics are only experienced by a few people.
For example, a study from 2015 found that, although most people benefit from probiotics, a few people noticed excessive flatulence and bloating. However, after a week or so, your digestion should adjust to the probiotics and you should no longer have side effects from taking probiotics.
Can Probiotics Hurt Me
For most healthy people, probiotics dont cause any harm. They are generally considered safe and are often given a try to see if they could help with various medical conditions. Theres a lot of research around the topic of probiotics. Scientists are trying to determine when and how they should be used, as well as how effective they are. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting a probiotic supplement because there are some cases where you shouldnt be taking them. Its always best to have the conversation first before starting a new supplement.
There Is No Way To Know What Dose You Are Taking
The probiotic supplement market is relatively unregulated, so it’s hard to know how many CFUs we actually are consuming when we take probiotics in pill form. Moreover, it’s difficult to know if the organisms in those probiotics are even still alive and capable of doing their job, or if they’re dead and useless. Even if the bacteria are alive, there’s a question about whether they can survive once inside your gut.
If you are getting your probiotics from foods like store-bought yogurt, there are also very few ways to be sure that you are consuming a significant dose of good bacteria. The conditions that the yogurt is stored in down the supply-chain, the temperature of your refrigerator, and the strain of probiotic that the yogurt contains all have a significant effect on the dosage of CFU. Many of the beneficial microbes could have perished before you consume the yogurt.
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If you’ve ever gotten the runs while running, you know that exercise has a regulating effect on the body. Inactivity does the complete opposite: “A low level of physical activity is a major risk factor for constipation,” says James-Stevenson. “This is likely related to decreased gut movement and less blood flow to the gut.” So if your pooping schedule isn’t quite up to par, skipping out on your fitness routine isn’t going to make your situation any better.
“Exercise increases blood flow to the vital organs of the body, including the digestive tract, and increases your metabolism,” says Shah. Any type of exercise is helpful in combatting constipationincluding walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga, and moreso pick your favorite and go nuts.
“Iron and calcium supplements can cause constipation, as they can both slow down the contractions of the GI system,” says Joann Kwah, M.D., attending gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. But proceed with caution: These vitamins are typically recommended by doctors if you have a specific deficiency. So if you have a medical condition that requires you to take them and the side effects are kicking you right in the gut, you can always ask your physician for alternative options .
Probiotic Side Effects List Of Common Questions
Probiotic side effects sometimes happen. They are mostly mild and harmless. Many people ask about reactions to probiotics so here is a collection of frequently asked questions.
You might be familiar with the old saying: no pain, no gain. Among athletes, muscle aches are viewed as a temporary discomfort bringing good results. Can something similar be said about probiotics side effects? Yes, it can.
Probiotics can cause a temporary discomfort to reach an improvement. However, this does not mean that side effects are necessary.
Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth
The small and large intestines usually contain different types of bacteria. SIBO occurs when bacteria from the large intestine start growing in the small intestine.
The large intestine predominantly contains anaerobic bacteria, which do not require oxygen and live by fermenting indigestible carbohydrates from plant-based foods as they pass through the gut.
Symptoms of SIBO are similar to those of IBS, including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. SIBO can also cause brain fogginess and short-term memory problems.
Not everyone with IBS has SIBO, but the overgrowth is more common in people with IBS. SIBO also frequently develops in older females.
Experts do not fully understand what causes the overgrowth, but it may result from reduced gut motility, which slows the passage of food through the gut. This can cause fermentable carbohydrates to remain in the small intestine for longer.
Results of a indicate a possible link between SIBO and probiotic supplementation in people with brain fogginess. The researchers found that symptoms improved when participants stopped taking probiotics and started taking antibiotics.
Anyone with SIBO symptoms should consult a doctor.
How Do Probiotics Help You Poop
Probiotics can make you poop more because they help you pass stool quicker and easier. Probiotics can also help soften your stool and used as a natural laxative to relieve constipation.
Research published in the journal SpringerPlus on the causes of constipation showed that intestinal microbiota affects how quickly food passes through the digestive system. An increase of certain pathogens in the gut can cause mild to severe constipation.
The scientists found that the probiotics can help a person poop more frequently and easily. For example, probiotics of the Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus casei strains helped to relieve symptoms of chronic constipation. Probiotics made patients poop more because they positively altered the microflora in the gut.
Another strain of probiotic that researchers found helped people to poop more was B. longum. Scientists concluded that probiotics restore intestinal microbial balance and help treat constipation.
The Gut Microbiome And Constipation
Trillions of bacteria reside in the gut in what is known collectively as the gut microbiome. Find out more about your gut microbiome in our sister site, the Probiotics Learning Lab. These microbes live in an ideally harmonious equilibrium, with a balance between beneficial and pathogenic bacteria. However, certain lifestyle factors can disturb this balance leading to what is known as dysbiosis . Dysbiosis has been often noted to be present in constipation5,6. Addressing this imbalance with a probiotic can help to restore normal bowel function and increase stool frequency.
How Do Prebiotics Work
Prebiotics feed your beneficial bacteria, allowing them to reproduce and multiply. Increased good bacteria in the gut can push harmful bacteria out and improve your digestion overall.
Other than increased counts of good bacteria and decreased counts of bad bacteria, benefits of prebiotics may include:
- Decreased inflammation
- Strengthened intestinal lining
- Elimination of toxins from your digestive tract
Prebiotics can come in supplement form or in certain types of food — both of which can grant you these benefits.
So, prebiotics help to balance gut bacteria, just like probiotics. And because constipation may be related to an imbalanced microbiome, it makes sense to guess that they might soothe constipation.
Lets check out the research before we jump to conclusions.
Are There Any Storage Instructions For Probiotics
Several probiotic strains are very fragile and need to be protected from heat, oxygen, light and humidity. The probiotics might start to break down or die if they are exposed to these elements. Because of this, you may need to refrigerate your probiotics or store it in a particular place. Refrigerating certain probiotic strains ensures that theyre still viable when you go to use them and will still provide the full benefit of the probiotic. Always read the labels on any probiotic product you purchase to make sure you store it correctly and use it within the expiration date.
There Is No Right Dose Of Probiotics
The average dose of probiotic supplements is 1 to 10 billion colony forming units according to the National Institutes of Health.
Most probiotics on the market have this amount, though you may see products that claim to have up to 50 billion CFU. However, there’s no concrete research that says what the most effective dosage is, says Farhadi.
“This is kind of uncharted territory. Most of our knowledge about probiotics is not pharmaceutically scientific or chemically scientific, and it’s a little bit different from other medications,” he says. For these reasons, researchers don’t know exactly which probiotics and what the effective dose is for health benefits.
However, if you are taking probiotics to deal with the uncomfortable effects of antibiotics, there is some evidence that a higher dose of certain probiotics might help abate the side-effect of diarrhea. In a small 2010 study, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, patients who were given two capsules of probiotic, each containing 50 billion CFU, had fewer instances of antibiotic-induced diarrhea than patients who were given one capsule or no probiotic at all.
Can Probiotics Help With Constipation
Probiotics can play a key role in helping to relieve occasional constipation, but it can be confusing trying to choose the correct and most effective one. Here we aim to demystify some of the confusion surrounding probiotics, and help you get the most out of your friendly bacteria. The majority of bacteria found in the large intestine are of the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species, therefore it makes sense that probiotics with specific strains belonging to these species are generally regarded as the most beneficial in helping to alleviate constipation.
The Best Probiotic Strains For Regularity
There are several strains of friendly bacteria that have been shown to be beneficial in helping to alleviate occasional constipation in various clinical studies. The best probiotic supplements should contain strains which have been specifically researched for constipation including:
- Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG®
Considerations When Taking Probiotics For Constipation
If youre considering taking probiotics to increase stool frequency, its also helpful to evaluate any and all other factors that might be contributing to the problem.
Is there anything else you can do to influence your digestive health along with taking probiotics? If medically appropriate, see if you can:
- Up your water intake.
- Consume more soluble fiber that will act as prebiotics for your good bacteria.
- Increase your activity level.
- Ask your doctor if any medications youre taking can be contributing to constipation and if there is an alternative.
While probiotics are safe for an overwhelming majority of people, those who are dealing with critical health conditions should consult a probiotic-literate healthcare professional for medical advice.
Finally, sometimes people feel temporary side effects when they begin taking a probiotic supplement. Gas, bloating, and general stomach upset can occur as the gut microbiota rebalances.
This generally subsides after a few days but if it doesnt, here are a few tips:
- While its best to take probiotics on an empty stomach, you could try taking your supplement with food while your body adjusts.
- Reduce the amount youre taking and gradually increase the dose.
- Make sure there are no ingredients in the supplement you might be allergic to, like gluten or dairy.
- Consider trying a product that contains different strains of bacteria.
Can I Use Probiotics To Help With Medical Conditions
There is currently a large amount of research happening around the idea of what probiotics can do for your body. Even though there are a lot of possibly positive outcomes, researchers are still working to find definitive answers about how probiotics can help with various conditions.
However, there are some medical conditions where probiotics may help. This can vary between people meaning that what works for one person may not work for another. These can also vary based on the certain probiotic that is taken.
Some of the conditions that might be helped by increasing the amount of probiotics in your body include:
- Upper respiratory infections .
- Sepsis .