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How Effective are Probiotics for Constipation?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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The effectiveness of probiotics for constipation in the general population has never been proven, despite the claims of some who produce information, especially online, who consider it a valid treatment option. At best, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, taking probiotics for constipation has produced mixed results. Still, for those who are considering treatments and may have tried other things, probiotic treatments may be one of several attractive constipation remedies. Those undergoing such treatment should carefully monitor progress toward relief.

Probiotics are a scientific word for healthy bacteria. While bacteria are often associated with negative contexts, some bacteria are very helpful and necessary for proper biological function. Probiotics for constipation may be a possible treatment because some of those beneficial bacteria that naturally live in the intestinal tract could help break down food better and aid in the digestion process. That may make waste products easier to pass from the body.

Despite the mixed results, probiotics for constipation have been shown to have some level of effectiveness for a couple of different demographic groups, including babies. In a study by the University of Naples in Italy, researchers followed 44 infants with chronic constipation. Probiotics, in particular Lactobacillus reuteri, were given to some in the group while others received a placebo. The results concluded that those with the probiotic treatment had more frequent bowel movements than those babies receiving the placebo.

Another study considered probiotics for constipation in elderly patients. Again, some improvement was noted among those taking the treatment who were diagnosed with mild, but chronic constipation. Therefore, some may respond positively to probiotic treatment for the condition, but success is not guaranteed.

For the general adult population, less is known about the effectiveness of probiotics for constipation. If probiotics work for some groups of people, then others not in those same demographics may be interested in trying them out as well, especially if other treatments produce no relief. Lactobacillus, Sacchromyces boulardi, and Bifidobacteria are common forms of probiotics that may offer some relief for constipation. These may be found in certain foods, such as yogurt, but could also be found as dietary supplements.

If buying probiotics as a supplement, they typically come in capsule form with the name and number of the live bacteria listed. The capsules should be taken only as directed. If effective, relief generally means the user has less strain and pain, and looser more frequent bowel movements. People should consult a doctor if symptoms do not improve after trying a probiotic treatment; in some cases, the doctor may advise more than one type of treatment to solve the problem.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By RocketLanch8 — On Apr 23, 2014

I get my probiotics at a local health food store. I tried those yogurt-based drinks with acidophilus for a while, but I wanted something stronger for constipation relief. My doctor said probiotics help restore gut flora, which in turn helps with digestion and lessens the chances of constipation or diarrhea.

Some of these probiotic supplements sold in health food stores can be a little pricey, but most people would only need to take them for a short time to see real health benefits.

By Ruggercat68 — On Apr 23, 2014

I started taking those little bottles of probiotics found in the yogurt section and I think they have really improved my overall digestion. I used to cycle between constipation and diarrhea, rarely finding a healthy middle for very long. After I started drinking these probiotic supplements, I have much healthier bowel movements. I don't know if I would take them if I were lactose intolerant, however. They can get a little gassy.

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