Bunged up? Looking for a relief for constipation? Read on....
Constipation is not a topic many of us like to talk about. At some stage in life, however almost all of us will suffer from constipation. Some of us might experience just a brief bout, whilst for others it will be chronic. Women and the elderly are the most common sufferers and whilst it is generally not serious it can be very uncomfortable.
If you are experiencing constipation, you will know only too well just how uncomfortable and frustrating it can be. As well as the obvious difficulty in passing stools, symptoms of constipation can also include:
- Infrequent bowel movements
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Feeling of incomplete emptying of the bowels
- Diarrhea (in severe cases of constipation and particularly common in elderly people)
Additionally some people report having headaches and/or feeling mentally sluggish when they are constipated.
Of course, if you are experiencing constipation, you should ensure you have it investigated by your healthcare provider. In the United States, constipation accounts for around 2.5 million physician visits each year. We take a vast quantity of laxatives, which ironically can make the problem worse. Take a look at the shelves of your local drugstore and you will realize the extent of the problem.
Constipation, Dietary Fiber and Bowel Flora
Constipation is not a disease but rather a symptom for which there are many different causes. By far the most common culprit though is a lack of dietary fiber. This not only slows down the transit of food through the bowel, but it also impacts upon your digestive flora.
You need a balanced gut micro flora for healthy bowel function. A diet that is low in fiber and high in fat, as is typical in the West, is also low on food for our all-important friendly bacteria. Without adequate supplies of high-fiber foods such as complex carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, our good bacteria can neither thrive nor work optimally. Also without enough fiber to speed up their passage, meat proteins move through the gut very slowly and this leads to putrefaction (decay) by unhelpful bacteria, which thrive in their presence.
Probiotics: A Relief for Constipation
One of the simplest approaches to alleviating and avoiding constipation is to increase your intake of dietary fiber and add in some beneficial bacteria. To begin with you can simply try eating more fruit and vegetables as well as some
on a daily basis. For chronic cases, probiotic supplements are most definitely worth a try and for those really stubborn cases, a
high potency probiotic
can be an excellent relief for constipation. Indeed the evidence supporting probiotics as a relief for constipation is promising - a good proportion of the scientific studies conducted have concluded that probiotics are of benefit in constipation. In particular, probiotics are thought to be of help as they:
- Speed up the rate at which food goes through the colon by encouraging peristalsis, the wave-like muscle contractions which move food through the bowel.
- Increase lactic acid production, which lowers the pH of the colon, making it more acidic and this results in more regular bowel movements and increased motility in the colon.
Specifically, research indicates that probiotics can be of help in alleviating constipation in the young and old alike. Helpful probiotics include strains and species which belong to Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria clans (genera) of bacteria:
- Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus (also known as Lactobacillus GG or simply LGG and marketed by Culturelle probiotics as a single strain product)1.
- Lactobacillus casei shirota (found in the probiotic drink Yakult)2.
- Bifidobacterium lactis3.
- Bifidobacterium longum4.
- B. bifidum, B. infantis, B. longum, L. casei, L. plantarum and L. rhamnosus in combination5.
Additionally, a probiotic containing Escherichia coli (E.coli) strain Nissle 1917, which is marketed as
This strain is safe and has no pathogenic characteristics. It is not to be confused with the disease causing E. Coli 0157. It has also been shown to be an effective relief for constipation, specifically chronic idiopathic constipation. If you have this type of constipation, you will know that it is particularly challenging as it does not respond to standard constipation treatments. Panic not though – help is at hand as treatment with Mutaflor has been shown to alleviate this particular type of constipation6.
Should I Try Probiotics as A Relief for Constipation?
The evidence supporting probiotics as a relief for constipation is good and growing and results show that probiotics can help even the most vulnerable of patients. If you are struggling with constipation, have been checked out by your physician and are still seeing no improvement, then our guess is that it’s definitely worth giving probiotics a go.
Have a look at our
before you make your purchase to ensure you select only the quality products on the market.
A good starting point to help with constipation or for avoiding constipation is simply to add in some probiotic foods such as
or fermented vegetables to your regular diet. Adding more fiber is also a great idea. This will not only increase the speed at which food moves through your bowel, it will also help your probiotic bacteria too. Fiber is food for your good flora and the best source is fruit and vegetables.
If your problem is chronic, taking a probiotic supplement as a relief for constipation is a great idea. For really stubborn cases, try high potency probiotics.
A word of warning though – start slowly and then ramp up gradually as too high an initial dose of probiotics may temporarily worsen your symptoms. If you do experience a flare-up of your symptoms on starting your probiotics, reduce your dosage for a few days and then once your situation improves, slowly build up your dose again.
1.Bu, L.N et al; Lactobacillus Casei Rhamnosus Lcr35 in Children with Chronic Constipation; Pediatr Int. 2007 Aug;49(4):485-90.
2.Koebnick C et al; Probiotic Beverage containing Lactobacillus Casei Shirota Improves Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Patients with Chronic Constipation; Can J Gastroenterol; 2003 Nov;17(11):655-9.
3.Yang Y.X et al; Effect of a Fermented Milk Containing Bifidobacterium Lactis DN-173010 on Chinese Constipated Women; World J Gastroenterol.; 2008 Oct 28;14(40):6237-43.
4.Pitkala, K.H et al; Fermented Cereal with Specific Bifidobacteria Normalizes Bowel Movements in Elderly Nursing Home Residents. A Randomized, Controlled Trial; J Nutr Health Aging; 2007 Jul-Aug;11(4):305-11.
5.Noor-L-Houda Bekkali et al; The Role of a Probiotics Mixture in the Treatment of Childhood Constipation: A Pilot Study; Nutrition Journal; 2007, 6:17
6.Möllenbrink M & Bruckschen E.; Treatment of Chronic Constipation with Physiologic Escherichia Coli Bacteria. Results of a Clinical Study of the Effectiveness and Tolerance of Microbiological Therapy with the E. Coli Nissle 1917 strain (Mutaflor); Med Klin (Munich); 1994 Nov 15;89(11):587-93.
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