You’ve probably experienced it at some point. Spending long periods of time in the bathroom due to constipation can be a literal pain in the rear.
Probiotics have been brought up as a possible solution to this condition, but how true is this?
A DoctorxDentist reader suffered from constipation for about two weeks straight. She took probiotics every day during this period, and was wondering if they could possibly help prevent and reduce constipation.
Gastroenterologist Dr Andrea Rajnakova discussed several things that readers suffering from constipation may want to take note of.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics can be described as live microorganisms with various potential health benefits when consumed.
Probiotics are typically safe to consume but they may cause bacteria-host interactions and in rare cases, unwanted side effects. Consult a doctor if you are unsure before probiotic consumption.
Bacteria play a large role in the human intestine
According to the latest estimates, the human gastrointestinal system contains about 39 trillion bacteria, most of which reside in the large intestine. These microbes are essential for health, acting collectively to fight harmful microbial invaders, break down fibrous foods, and produce vitamins like K and B12.
Probiotics can help restore and maintain healthy microflora in the gut. This in turn gradually improves bowel movement and stool consistency.
Research has shown that probiotics can also shorten diarrhoea attacks in children. This is especially good news since a child's body is generally weaker and excessive diarrhoea can lead to severe complications. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus casei can help with this problem.
Chronic constipation may require lifestyle changes
Probiotics alone may not be enough to improve chronic constipation. It is best to combine probiotics with action on other lifestyle factors in order to achieve effective results. These factors include the sufficient intake of fibre and water, regular exercise, and an overall healthy diet.
Constipation may be caused by IBS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) - a common disorder that affects the large intestine - may lead to diarrhoea, constipation, or both. If you are experiencing such symptoms and it's concluded from a medical diagnosis that IBS is the underlying cause, probiotics can help with bloating and the restoration of regular bowel movements. Bifidobacterium infantis is one such helpful probiotic.
Probiotics may also prevent fatal gut disease
A 2014 review by Cochrane (an independent network of medical researchers) found that probiotics could be particularly useful in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Adding beneficial bacteria to nutritional regimens reduced the risk of a fatal gut disease that primarily afflicts preterm infants.
Ultimately, extensive material that can be found in reputable medical sources and many studies have, in fact, established that taking probiotics can help prevent digestive problems. Constipation is included in the list of conditions treatable through proper probiotic consumption. Nonetheless, do seek a consultation with your medical doctor before starting any dietary plan targeting any medical condition.
1. S.Kolida. et al. Gastrointestinal Microflora: Probiotics. Advances in Applied Microbiology Volume 59, 2006, Pages 187-219.