Probiotics for Constipation: Can Probiotics Make You Poop? (Including Probiotics Side Effects)

Probiotics for Constipation: Can Probiotics Make You Poop?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that can help treat constipation and improve your gut health. Certain strains of probiotics help you poop more frequently as they loosen and soften stool, help make it easier to pass stool, and improve your digestion. Taking probiotics for regular bowel movements can also help to relieve symptoms of constipation like bloating, hard stomach, and abdominal pain.

You may find that taking probiotics to make you poop more can also help to relieve digestive issues like diarrhea, treat the symptoms of IBS, and reduce digestive upset caused by antibiotics. The healthy (or “good”) bacteria in probiotics that help with constipation can also boost your immune system and help you feel generally healthier.

The benefits of taking probiotics to help with constipation are boosted by the fact that probiotics have relatively few side effects. Probiotics can cause side effects such as mild stomach upset, diarrhea, or flatulence and bloating for the first few days after starting to take them.

In this article, I will examine what scientific research have revealed about the benefits of probiotics for constipation. You will also learn about the best strains of bacteria that can improve your digestive health and help you poop more. At the end of the article I’ll look at the side effects of probiotics.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that provide many health benefits to people who take them. They are especially beneficial for improving the health of your digestive system.

Probiotics can help to keep your gut healthy, regulate bowel movements and help with constipation. Probiotics are also referred to as “good” bacteria because they have many health benefits in addition to keeping your gut healthy.1

You can consume probiotics as a supplement but they are also found in fermented foods such as:

Taking probiotics as a supplement

A study from the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy reported that common strains of bacteria in probiotics that are used in supplements are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

The best types of probiotic supplements should contain several billion microorganisms and different strains of bacteria. The study concluded that probiotics have proven efficacy in treating various gastrointestinal tract conditions.1

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.2

The scientists found that the probiotics can help a person poop more frequently and easily. For example, probiotics of the Bifidobacterium lactis (B. lactis) and Lactobacillus casei (L. 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.2

Probiotics for Constipation: Can Probiotics Make You Poop?

Many studies into using probiotics to make you poop more easily have found that they help in 4 main ways. A review of using probiotics for constipation published on PubMed Health reported the following:3

  • Probiotics help improve whole gut transit time in the digestive tract
  • Probiotics soften stool and make pooping easier
  • Some strains of probiotics increase stool frequency
  • Probiotics can help to alleviate other symptoms of constipation like abdominal pain and bloating.

Let’s look in more detail at studies showing the benefits of taking probiotics for treating constipation in children, adults, and the elderly.

Probiotics Increase Stool Frequency (They Make You Poop More)

Probiotics are helpful for constipation because they can increase the frequency of your bowel movements.

The journal Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology published a systematic review of six trials into the benefits of probiotics for constipation. All the trials were randomized controlled trials and they all found that probiotics make you poop more. In most cases, the frequency of bowel movements significantly increased. The review has also mentioned that a consumption of yogurts containing the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium helped improve chronic constipation.4

The most beneficial strains of bacteria that the trials identified were L. casei rhamnosus, L. casei, L. acidophilus. Scientists also found that many Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria strains help to increase stool frequency.

The above review was carried out on the benefits of using probiotics to ease symptoms of constipation in children. Therefore, supplementing a child’s diet with probiotics can help them poop easier and ease symptoms of constipation such as pain and bloating.

Probiotics Decrease Whole Gut Transit Time

Research into taking probiotics for constipation have found that they improve the time food takes to pass through the gastrointestinal tract. This is known as “whole gut transit time” or “bowel transit time”.

Research published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology found that probiotics decrease whole gut transit time. The study found that the B. lactis HN019 strain of probiotics helped to reduce whole gut transit time and improve gastrointestinal issues in adults.5

The study found that the probiotic, B. lactis HN019 is safe for human consumption and there were no reported side effects.

Probiotics Help to Soften Stools and Make Them Easier to Pass

Another way that probiotics can help you poop easier is that they soften hard stool and make passing stool less painful.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on the efficacy of probiotics in treating constipation. The report was compiled from a meta-analysis of multiple studies into the use of probiotics for constipation. In total, the research results were pooled from the results of 1182 patients.6

The report mentioned that probiotics helped to soften stool and make it easier to pass. The frequency of pooping increased by nearly 1.5 times per week. The individuals taking probiotics said that they had less pain when passing stool. It seems that probiotics containing Bifidobacterium strains were the most effective in softening stools.

The Annals of Gastroenterology also published a review of the results of 21 studies that included over 2,500 patients. Scientists found that probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains were the most helpful in increasing the frequency of bowel movements.7

So, research has shown that you can take probiotics daily to help treat a sluggish digestive system and help you poop more.

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 (cramps).

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.8

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 10–40% compared to placebo controls in which no probiotic was used.9

Other Benefits of Probiotics

Many people find that when they start taking probiotics to make themselves poop easier, they also experience other health benefits.

Some of the health benefits you can expect from probiotics can be any of the following:

Better immune system. Research from 2011 found that the health of your gut and immunity are closely connected. Taking probiotics can help to boost your immunity naturally and result in fewer infections. For example, probiotics containing rhamnosus GG can help to treat inflammatory conditions. L. acidophilus NCFM helped to protect against viral infections.10

Reduce side effects of antibiotics. Probiotics can help to prevent digestive upset that occurs when taking antibiotics. The Journal of Family Practice reports that antibiotics can sometimes cause chronic diarrhea. Taking a probiotic supplement 2 hours after an antibiotic can help to prevent diarrhea and abdominal cramping after a meal. It was found that combinations containing Lactobacillus species were the most effective.11

Prevent allergies. Research has discovered that taking probiotics can help to relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and atopic dermatitis.12 Scientists have also found that probiotics can minimize food allergies.

Treat and prevent vaginal infections. Introducing beneficial bacteria to the gut can also cut down on the number and severity of vaginal infections. Research has shown that Lactobacillus strains in probiotics can help to alleviate symptoms of bacterial vaginosis and vaginal thrush.13

Other Ways to Relieve Constipation

As well as taking probiotics to help you poop more, you can also try some other methods of relieving constipation. Here are other simple tips that can help you soften stool, increase the frequency of bowel movements, and treat digestive problems.

Drink more water to poop easier

Increasing your fluid intake can help to soften stool and kickstart your digestion.

According to a review published in 2017, water or increased fluid intake can help to prevent and treat functional constipation.14 Ideally, you should increase your water intake by 2 to 4 glasses per day to help relieve constipation symptoms and stay properly hydrated.

Eat more fiber

Fiber (when consumed with fluids) helps food to pass through your digestive system and soften stool.

The effect of fiber on stool is that it bulks it up and therefore makes pooping easier. The World Journal of Gastroenterology reported on the link between fiber and constipation. Researchers found that fiber increases the need to poop and helps pass stool easier.15

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.16

Side Effects of Probiotics

Taking probiotics to increase the frequency you need to poop and make stools softer is generally well tolerated by most people. However, there are some side effects to supplementing your diet with probiotics for their health benefits.

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.17

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.18

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.19

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.

Risk of infection for some people

If your immune system is compromised, then you may be advised to avoid taking probiotics. You could have a weakened immune system if you are undergoing chemotherapy or have other immune deficiency issues.

A report from 2010 said that patients who are critically ill, have serious issues with their immune system, or have central venous catheters should seek a doctor’s advice before taking probiotics. However, the risk of infection from probiotics is very rare.1

Can Probiotics Cause Diarrhea?

Diarrhea is an uncommon side effect of probiotics, but it can happen on some occasions. Generally, probiotics are one of the natural remedies for diarrhea and can help you recover from gastroenteritis quicker.

However, doctors from the Cleveland Clinic report that probiotics can cause diarrhea in the first few days of taking them. Doctors say that this should not be a cause for concern because probiotics strains already exist in our bodies.20

In general, probiotics and foods containing probiotics are safe for general use. However, they may cause mild stomach upset, diarrhea, or flatulence and bloating for the first few days after starting to take them.

When to See a Doctor

Taking probiotics regularly should greatly decrease bouts of constipation that you suffer. Usually, increasing fiber intake, drinking more fluids, and getting more exercise can help to get your bowel moving quicker.

However, in some cases, you may need to see a doctor for constipation. Dr. Sabrina Felson on WebMD advises that you should seek medical advice if you are constipated and have the following symptoms:21

  • You start to have less than 3 bowel movements a week and natural remedies don’t help
  • You poop blood along with passing hard stools
  • You have cramping stomach pain and can’t use the bathroom
  • You have signs of fecal incontinence

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