Joyous Blog

How Probiotics can Help Prevent Constipation

Feb 23, 2016 BY Joy McCarthy

Are you constipated? I know it's a personal question and don't worry, this stays between the two of us, so a simple nod of your head will do; yes or no. If the contact form or comments section is any indication, you're definitely not alone. I receive more questions on what to do when you're constipated than any other question.

Americans spend nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars each year trying to unblock themselves.

CONSTIPATION IS COMPLICATED

There are so many reasons people get constipated. Stress, diet, food allergies, dehydration, medications, a lack of movement and pregnancy can all contribute to a bowel backup; and that's just the short list. The good news is that there are definitely things you can do to help get things moving that don't include laxatives or other prescriptions (which can do more harm that help).

In addition to the many natural remedies I talk about here, it's becoming more and more clear the important role healthy gut bacteria plays in our overall health, including digestion. Depending on the health of your gut bacteria, it may be best for you to completely heal your gut, but regardless where you find yourself on the healthy gut spectrum, probiotics are never a bad place to start.

BENEFICIAL BUGS

Probiotics are the good bugs that help to break down foods after we've ingested them, but they do a LOT more, such as:

  • They break down tough plant fibers which act as prebiotics. So if you want a thriving gut flora, it is essential to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to feed the bacteria. Eat plenty of leafy greens, sweet potatoes, squash, apples, pears and berries.
  • They may alter the way we store fat. Research has shown that obese mice populated with probiotics from lean mice became lean. Furthermore, obese people have much fewer species and variety of bacteria than lean people.
  • Alter the way we balance levels of glucose in the blood.
  • Alter how we respond to hormones that make us feel hungry or full. Gut bacteria influences messaging to the brain to signal that you are full.
  • They help make vitamins such as vitamin K, biotin, folate and B12.
  • Keep our immune system strong. In fact, 84% of our immune system resides in our gut wall. Good bacteria prevents pathogens from sticking to the wall of the gut because they impact the epithelial lining of the gut. They have a powerful influence on whether you get bitten by the flu bug!
  • Help break down toxins and waste products to be eliminated when you have a bowel movement.
  • Help with depression two ways: by reducing inflammatory cytokines and producing neurotransmitters in the gut.
  • Prevent candida albicans from taking over. Good bacteria keep the yeast and fungus levels in check.
  • Reduce bloating and gas.

Now those are just some of their roles, (there's more!) but needless to say, they're important little buggers :)

BECAUSE, SCIENCE SAYS SO!
In fact, it's not only nutritionists like myself touting the benefits of probiotics, science agrees too! Researchers at King's College in London reviewed 14 studies about probiotics and found that:

  • probiotics increased “gut transit time” by 12.4 hours (meaning, more time to digest and breakdown the food)
  • increased the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3
  • helped soften stools, making them easier to pass
  • Probiotics that contained Bifidobacterium appeared to be the most effective

Not only do probiotics help reduce constipation but they also help prevent diarrhea too.

In simple terms, probiotics are helpful little buggers because they aid in the break down of waste products. This means they get the poop moving through your gut and out the back door.

It is super important (perhaps even more important than taking probiotics) to FEED the good bacteria. Fermented foods are a food source for bacteria. I recommend you eat something fermented every single day. Check back in a couple of weeks for my chocolate protein brownies made with fermented protein powder. Or try these Sweet Potato Protein Muffins today.

I know you are probably wondering what probiotics I recommend and take. There are many excellent brands on the market today, in fact I even give probiotics to baby Vienna! However, a brand that I have taken for years has recently released a multi-strain probiotic. I recommend you do your research to find a brand that is best for you. Talk to your Naturopath or Certified Nutritionist for advice.

When you start taking probiotics you may notice you feel bloated or gassy, this is very normal when you introduce new bacteria.

THERE'S MORE!

Learn more about how good bacteria affects your health.
Check out my online seminar:
HEALTHY GUT = HEALTHY BRAIN

HAVE PROBIOTICS HELPED YOU WITH CONSTIPATION?COMMENT BELOW AND LET US KNOW!

Feb 23, 2016 BY Joy McCarthy
18 Comments
maria   •   February 24, 2016

Thank you Joy!! Great article.. But I'm curious as to the effects and preventative and cures for diarrehea..even though I'm taking probictics.

Reply
S   •   February 24, 2016

Me too! I know people who have the opposite problem as constipation, although I think they alternative between the two (two days of no bowels, then third day of urgent bowel). Does probiotic help with this?


Victoria   •   February 24, 2016

Hi ! Love the post ! I just spent six weeks doing AIP to heal my gut to come down with a bad cold and ear infection, leading me to needing to take antibiotics :( what can I do to protect my gut while taking medications? Will an extra dose help ?

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 28, 2016

I would strongly recommend taking probiotics while you're on antibiotics but about 3-4 hours apart. One course of antibiotics can wipe out about 1/3 of your good gut flora so it is important to re-populate the gut for a strong immune system. Hope that helps!


Sandi Piper   •   February 25, 2016

I take probiotics every day except while on vacation. By the end of the week I feel like things are backing up and being stored. I can't wait to get home to start my probiotics to have things run smoothly again. "Touch wood" I don't seem to get the cold and flu bugs that my friends and colleagues do.

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 28, 2016

There are some brands that are shelf-stable at room temp so you could in fact take them on vacation with you :) Just ask for a brand recommendation at your local health food store. Hope you had a great vacay! :)


Tracy   •   February 26, 2016

Thanks for a great post Joy. And a healthy reminder to increase ng family's probiotic intake. I've given my little guy probiotics since he was a baby and it helps his eczema too. I've recently started eating sauerkraut and dream of the day my little man will eat it too! Your healthy brain seminar looks interesting too - will sign up. Thanks again.

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 28, 2016

My pleasure Tracy! That's awesome you've been giving them to your little guy, it can certainly help improve his gut integrity and prevent foreign molecules from getting into the bloodstream and causing problems like eczema.


Jessica   •   February 29, 2016

Hi Joy, Do you have a recommendation for a good pro-biotic? I'm a little nervous as last time I took them I broke out (it could have been from something else though). One without dairy preferably. Thanks!

Reply

  •   March 11, 2016

Splendid article! We really need to take care of our bodies and minds!

Reply

Karen   •   July 23, 2016

Should probiotics be taken with food, before or after eating? Or away from food? Thanks!

Reply
Heather Allen   •   July 25, 2016

Hey Karen! The jury is still out on the best time, but I would suggest following the directions on the bottle. Heather- Joyous Health Team


Monika   •   September 8, 2016

Very informative article Joy! I have been taking the exact same probiotic that you recommend for a while now and was wondering if I could also give it to my 14 month old babe and how much would you recommend? Thanks

Reply
Heather Allen   •   September 9, 2016

Hey Monika! I'd suggest sticking with an infant probiotic for your little one. Genestra makes a great one called Baby B that has the dosage and bacteria strains your baby needs and comes in a powder that is easy for them to take. I hope that helps! Heather- Joyous Health Team


Pooja   •   October 23, 2016

Hi Joy :) are probiotics safe to take during pregnancy? Thankss

Reply
Heather Allen   •   October 24, 2016

Hey Pooja. They sure are. But as always, if you're introducing something new to your supplement routine, I would suggest talking with your primary health care provider first :) Heather- Joyous Health Team


Kiren   •   November 20, 2017

Hi Joy, I'm taking the Progressive HCP probiotic and have been for awhile; I never realized that it states that it may contain milk and soy - should I stop taking this one due to sensitivities to milk and soy??

Reply
Rachel Molenda   •   November 22, 2017

Hey Kiren! Joy hasn't used this supplement in a while so it may be best to contact the company to inquire, but it is likely due to the probiotics being grown on a dairy culture. Rachel - Joyous Health Team


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