According to the 1991 National Health Interview Survey, about 4 1/2 million people in the United States say they are constipated most or all of the time. Those reporting constipation most often are women, children, and adults age 65 and over. Pregnant women also complain of constipation, and it is a common problem following childbirth or surgery.
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the United States, resulting in about two million annual visits to the doctor. However, most people treat themselves without seeking medical help, as is evident from the $725 million Americans spend on laxatives each year.
Common Causes of Constipation
Probiotics can help constipation. In a study, 305 of 356 cases of chronic constipation showed improvement with Lactobacillus acidophilus supplementation.
Successfully bolstering lactobacillus populations was followed by relief of symptoms in constipation resulting from a variety of triggering conditions such as mucous colitis, irritable colon, and idiopathic ulcerative colitis.
Additional studies dating to the 1920s and 1930s also bolster the use of probiotics for boosting populations of friendly bacteria and reducing constipation.
Most recently, researchers at the Department of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry, University of Turku, Finland, studied the effect of probiotics on 28 constipated elderly volunteers. The study volunteers were divided into three groups: one group receiving juice; one receiving juice supplemented with Lactobacillus reuteri; and one receiving juice supplemented with Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Propionibacterium freudenreichii.
During the first four weeks all subjects consumed unsupplemented juice. In the subsequent four weeks, the subjects received their designated juice. During the last three weeks, all subjects again received unsupplemented juice.
Persons receiving the L. rhamnosus/P. freudenreichii-supplemented juice exhibited a twenty-four percent increase in bowel movement frequency. “Some relief from constipation may be observed with the combination of L. rhamnosus/ P. freudenreichii,” say the researchers.
In short, diarrhea, constipation, and loss of beneficial bacterial populations as a side-effect of antibiotic use can all be overcome with the use of probiotics.
How to Use Probiotics for Constipation
Be sure to choose a quality probiotic supplement containing lactobacillus and bifidus cultures. Be sure to follow the recommended label instructions and work with your physician to determine the optimal dosage. Do not discontinue medications unless advised to do so by your physician.