Prebiotics For Constipation: The Evidence
Unlike probiotics, research shows that prebiotics are consistently helpful for improving bowel regularity.
A meta-analysis looked at results of 27 studies about prebiotics ability to improve constipation symptoms. It also inspected synbiotics ability to improve constipation symptoms, which are combinations of probiotics and prebiotics.
They found that prebiotics alone increase weekly stool frequency and improve stool consistency .
Combining prebiotics AND probiotics together may be the best bet of all. When combined, prebiotics and probiotics are referred to as synbiotics.Synbiotics, however, seem to be even more effective than prebiotics alone.
Most notably, synbiotics were shown to decrease whole gut transit time by 13.5 hours on average – meaning you could dramatically ramp up your stool passage frequency.
Synbiotics also were also shown to improve stool consistencyand decrease bloating and pain with stool passage.
When it comes to specific prebiotics that may be helpful, one prebiotic superstar stands out among the bunch — Sunfiber.
Sunfiber is repeatedly shown in scientific studies to reduce constipation, increase regularity , reduce abdominal pain with stool passage, and soften stools . Even low doses can have these effects.
One study asserted that Sunfiber is a credible candidate to be a single comprehensive solutionfor overall maintenance of proper digestive health . Thats some pretty high praise!
Probiotics & Pooping A Lot
Probiotics can make you poop a lot. The question of whether it can or not has been demystified in this material as follows:
Maintains adequate bowel movements
A study in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging 15:215-20 showed that its subjects, elderly, could reduce the use of laxative synthetics by taking probiotics. Laxatives are normally drugs that are indicated for constipation to increase the transit time of gut contents and therefore help expel poop. While probiotics have shown to act in the same manner by introducing beneficial bacteria, increased amount of poop can be explained by this mechanism the study postulated.
Treatment of IBS associated reduced transit
probiotics have been preferred for the treatment of IBS and therefore its accompanying reduced gut motility. It is the reduced gut motility that leads to reduced bowel movements in a day or week. Probiotics play a hand in the management of IBS by improving the transit time, reduction of segmental pooling and increasing bowel movements overall. Trusted sites such as the Dr. Oz, Mayo and WebMD support the pertinence of probiotics in improving bowel movements.
There are strains that lead to stimulation of intestinal motility
When To See A Doctor
For many people, experimenting on your own with probiotics is probably a safe betin general, probiotics dont cause any side effects and are considered safe.
However, theyre not regulated or tested by the Food and Drug Administration the way that prescription medications are.
For this reason, you may want to consult with your healthcare provider or dietitian before adding a probiotic supplement to your diet, especially if youre considering taking probiotics for constipation.
Its also important to remember that probiotics are full of bacterial spores, and for some immunocompromised people, probiotic use can increase the risk of developing a serious infection.
People with cancer should be especially cautious before taking probiotics as a complementary or alternative treatment, as there can be risk of infection or serious side effects.
In addition, probiotic use may not be recommended for premature infants, people with short bowel syndrome, people with central venous catheters, and people with cardiac valve disease.
Finally, probiotics should not be used as a replacement for a visit with your healthcare provider if youre experiencing new or troubling symptoms, like chronic constipation.
If youre experiencing chronic constipation that wont go away after probiotic treatment or other lifestyle changes, reach out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
In some cases, chronic constipation can be a sign of something more serious.
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Start With The Consistency
The firmness of your poop suggests a wealth of information about your body. So, is your poop soft, hard or runny?
Youve probably already noticed the extremes, like runny or hard . Now, notice the subtleties: Is it lumpy or smooth? Are there ragged edges or clear-cut edges? Does it come out in soft blobs or more solid pieces?
Compare the consistency with each poop chart meaning for more insights into what your poop says about your health.
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You May Experience Less Constipation
According to Morgyn Clair, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Sprint Kitchen, one of the top benefits of taking probiotics is that they help your body break down and metabolize nutrients in the intestines more efficiently. As a result, they may promote regular bowel movements and reduce unpleasant GI problems like constipation and diarrhea. Specifically, Dr. Axe says the species of Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium tend to be most helpful in this regard.
2017 research suggested that probiotic supplements can help cure antibiotic-associated diarrhea, while another study revealed that probiotics containing Bifidobacterium slowed “gut transit time,” thus increasing participants’ number of weekly bowel movements while softening stools, making them easier to pass.
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Probiotics Can Cause Constipation By Revealing Underlying Digestive Issues
Probiotics typically reduce constipation. According to several studies, probiotics were found to increase the average number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3, and generally supported softer stools that were easier to pass. These studies found Bifidobacterium to be the most effective probiotic for supporting regular digestive health.5
Because constipation is not typical when taking probiotics, experiencing constipation with probiotics may be a sign that you do not have enough fiber or water in your diet. In these instances we recommend increasing consumption of fiber with your probiotics. You can also start taking prebiotic fiber with your probiotics. Be sure to select one that is organic and diverse so your probiotics can have good food to thrive.
While On Certain Types Of Medication
Many medications have a known negative effect on the gut flora and your digestive system. For example, antibiotics and radiation therapies greatly diminishes your healthy gut flora, and opioid pills and other painkillers can lead to constipation or inflammation in the gut.
In these cases, probiotics are a powerful way to strengthen your gut flora, restore bacterial diversity and support healthy digestion.
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Will Probiotics Make You Gain Weight
While it is believed that a connection exists between ones gut bacteria and obesity, the actual research just isnt there yet. Probiotics may show promise in regulating weight in mice, but again, the research is limited and no human trials exist.
The safest thing we can say is, dont overdo it. Eating too much of anything can become a bad thing and the same holds true for probiotics.
The Roles Of Glycans Probiotics And Mucus
Intestinal mucus is composed primarily of the gel-forming secreted mucin MUC2 protein synthesized by intestinal goblet cells. Mucin O-linked glycans account for up to 80% of the mucin protein’s molecular weight, which shows that these glycans are important for mucus integrity. Phospholipids are the major fat component of mucus.There are many ways mucus can be compromised with the mucus degrading faster than it can be replenished. Some of these broadly are:
- If too many intestinal microbes, particularly pathogens, are feasting on the glycans or degrading proteins in mucus
- If the goblet cells are not being given the signal to produce more mucus or are incapable of doing so
- If the ingredients for mucus are not available
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What Color Is Your Poop
Keep an eye on your poops color. It tells you how well your body is processing the food you eat and can provide clues about your digestive health. Heres a handy poop color chart for reference:
- Brown, yellow, or green poop: The gold standard for healthy poop. Things look good. The difference in colors depends on what you eat and how much bile youre producing. Generally, poop ranging in shades of brown to green is a good sign.
- Pale, clay-colored poop: Light gray, clay-like feces can suggest a problem with your digestion. If your poop is regularly pale and gray, get yourself to a healthcare professional.
- Red or black poop: Did you eat beets or licorice recently? If so, that may explain the change in color. Beets and some other black and red foods can cause your healthy stool to change colors because of their pigments . But if you havent eaten beets and you see red or black stool in the toilet, see a doctor about these irregularly colored bowel movements.
Can Probiotics Help Or Hurt
Probiotics are foods or supplements that contain live microorganisms like bacteria and yeast. Human bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad, and consuming probiotics can improve the good bacteria in your body, states the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health .
According to NCCIH, data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey show that about 4 million U.S. adults had used probiotics or prebiotics in the past 30 days. Yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut and other fermented foods are popular sources of these microorganisms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A lot of probiotics are also sold as dietary supplements. Dietary supplements don’t require approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they are marketed, warns the NCCIH, so always be careful about what you put into your body.
Many people wonder if the beneficial bacteria in probiotics cause constipation. “Generally, probiotics do not cause constipation,” says Dr. Winberry. “There’s research looking at probiotics to treat constipation actually.”
In an October 2014 analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers reviewed 14 studies on probiotics and found that probiotics increased stool frequency by 1.3 bowel movements a week and also softened stools, making them easier to pass.
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Antibiotics And Other Medications
If youve recently been prescribed antibiotics, especially a strong one, the medication can kill off large parts of your guts normal bacteria. This decreases the population of the brown-staining bacteria in your lower intestine. Probiotics, such as yogurt or kombucha, can help restore balance to your intestinal flora.
Several other medications and supplements can also cause a breakdown in pigments that turns your stool green. One example is iron supplements.
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Some Ingredients May Cause Adverse Reactions
People with allergies or intolerances should read the labels of probiotic supplements carefully, since they might contain ingredients they could react to.
For example, some of the supplements contain allergens such as dairy, egg or soy.
These ingredients should be avoided by anyone who is allergic, as they may trigger an allergic reaction. If necessary, read labels carefully to avoid these ingredients .
Similarly, yeast-based probiotics should not be taken by those with yeast allergies. Instead, a bacteria-based probiotic should be used .
Milk sugar, or lactose, is also used in many probiotic supplements .
While studies suggest that most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 400 mg of lactose in medications or supplements, there have been case reports of adverse effects from probiotics .
Since a small number of people with lactose intolerance may experience unpleasant gas and bloating when consuming lactose-containing probiotics, they may want to choose lactose-free products.
In addition to containing powerful probiotics, some supplements also contain prebiotics. These are plant fibers that humans cannot digest, but that bacteria can consume as food. The most common types are lactulose, inulin and various oligosaccharides (
Some people experience gas and bloating when consuming synbiotics. Those who experience these side effects may want to select a supplement that does not contain prebiotics .
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When Do I Need To See A Doctor About Rectal Bleeding
Its usually a good idea to reach out to your healthcare provider whenever you have rectal bleeding. It can be a sign of another health condition that might need treatment. If you have heavy bleeding or are seeing blood in multiple bowel movements, its urgent that you see your provider. Rectal bleeding can have serious causes that need to be treated.
Possible Early Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome is very common problem that affects the large intestine. It can cause stomach pain, cramps, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Doctors think that IBS is caused by the brain sending wrong messages to the bowels, such as during times of high stress, causing physical changes. The formal criteria for this diagnosis requires 3 months of symptoms. Therefore you may have an early presentation.
Top Symptoms: fatigue, abdominal pain , nausea or vomiting, stool changes, constipation
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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Do They Make You Poop
Probiotics can, in fact, make you poopespecially if youre suffering from constipation caused by irritable bowel syndrome .
Its important to understand that probiotics are not laxatives. Their purpose is not to stimulate your bowels.
Instead, they may regulate your bowel movements by enhancing your gut microbiome, or the collection of good bacteria in your digestive tract. You need to consume probiotics regularly to see results.
A 2016 study of 150 people with IBS found that probiotic supplements regulated bowel movements and improved stool consistency. And that wasnt just a flukeresearch has shown that probiotics can ease IBS symptoms time and time again.
Improved Immunity And Energy
If you’re feeling more energized and haven’t been knocked down by a cold recently, it’s possible that your probiotics may have helped play a role. “Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can also boost immunity and energy by aiding in proper digestion and absorption of nutrients,” Dr. Hughes explains. “So, not only is the microbiome responsible for protecting us against infection in the gut directly, it also contributes to our overall well-being by allowing us to use what we are feeding our body efficiently.”
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Other Treatments For Ibs
Probiotics are far from the only treatment thats effective for IBS symptoms. Other helpful methods for addressing IBS exist, such as:
- Regular exercise
- Quality sleep
When treating IBS, you first need to know the underlying cause. Talk with an integrative specialist about diagnosing the root cause of your IBS, which could be parasites, low vagal tone, hormone imbalance, or even food poisoning.
They May Cause Unpleasant Digestive Symptoms
It is not known exactly why some people experience these side effects, but they typically subside after a few weeks of continued use .
To reduce the likelihood of side effects, start with a low dose of probiotics and slowly increase to the full dosage over a few weeks. This can help your body adjust to them.
If the gas, bloating or any other side effects continue for more than a few weeks, stop taking the probiotic and consult a medical professional.
Some people experience an increase in gas, bloating, constipation or thirst when they start taking probiotics. These side effects should go away within a few weeks.
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How To Tell If Your Probiotic Is Working
The primary site of action for probiotics is the gastrointestinal tract. Also, GI complaints such as diarrhea and/or constipation, gas, bloating, inflammation, pain and GI discomfort are symptoms that frequently cause people to use probiotics therapeutically. Therefore, improvement in these symptoms is a way people with GI complaints can judge if their probiotic is working. Also, the speed or rate of symptomatic relief is a measure of how well a probiotic is working.
Most people have experienced an occasional bad hair day. It is also common, and not particularly serious, to have an occasional bad stool day. However, if diarrhea or constipation are an ongoing problem, attempts should be made to correct the problem.
Numerous studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals reporting that specific strains of probiotic bacteria can be used therapeutically to resolve conditions of diarrhea and/or constipation.
Therefore, how a well probiotic is working to resolve either diarrhea or constipation issues is an assessment of whether the individuals bowel movements have normalized. Healthy stools should be well-formed, meaning not too hard and also, not loose and watery.
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The Dosage The Method And Potential Side Effects
According to Consumer Lab, a probiotic should provide at least 1 billion CFUs , with doses typically ranging between 1 billion and 10 billion CFUs daily for adults . Natural Wellnesss Super Probiotics contains 10 billion viable cells in each serving.
If youre looking for a stronger probiotic, Natural Wellness also offers Ultra Probiotic Formula, which has 35 billion living cells per capsule. Both probioitc supplements are developed to withstand the acids in your stomach so they reach their intended destinations.
But what are the side effects of taking too much probiotics, you ask? While most people experience no side effects, some people unfortunately do, and among them the most commonly reported is digestion discomfort. Bloating or diarrhea may also result, so pull the reins if you feel the onset of an upset stomach.
In terms of the time it takes for a high-quality probiotic to start working, granted it survives your stomach acid, is roughly 30-60 minutes. That means you should be patient and wait for probiotics to do their thing before taking any more.
And, according to the Mayo Clinic, probiotics should not be combined with any of the following:
- Any prescription drug that affects your immune system
- Any sort of fungal infection treatment
- Having pancreatitis
Take extra precaution if you get infections often or have a weakened immune system as well, and always consult your physician or dietitian before introducing probiotics into your diet .
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