Chances are you’ll experience one or more bouts of constipation in your lifetime. Some of the likely causes of this condition include a low-fiber diet, not drinking enough water, taking antacids, stress, or a health problem such as irritable bowel syndrome. Natural remedies such as taking probiotics may provide much-needed relief. However, if you suffer from constipation frequently, consult your doctor.
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Probiotics are healthy bacteria that keep your intestine healthy and may treat a variety of health problems. In one study published in the “Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology” in September 2010, a team of Italian researchers found that artichokes enriched with the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei strain helped to treat constipation, reducing abdominal distension and the feeling of incomplete elimination.
However, study results are mixed. For instance, a study in the June 2011 issue of the journal “Pediatrics” found that probiotics increased stool frequency in children with constipation but was no more effective than the control product. The researchers suggest, however, that failure in studies may be due to the length of time probiotics is taken. Also, it’s worth noting that there are dozens of species and strains of probiotics and they have different effects on the body. It’s possible that particular species and strains are more beneficial for treating constipation than others.
You can get probiotics from fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir, or in supplement form. The typical daily dose of probiotics for adults is between 1 billion and 10 billion viable organisms taken in three to four divided doses, according to Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian and author of “The Complete A-Z Nutrition Encyclopedia.” Children’s products may contain about one-quarter to one-half of the adult dose. However, get your doctor’s advice before giving your child probiotics to treat a medical problem.
Probiotics are generally safe to take but may cause increased digestive gas and cause bloating or flatulence. These symptoms usually pass as your body becomes more used to the probiotics. If you have a medical condition such as pancreatitis or if you have an immunosuppressive disease, such as HIV, consult your doctor before taking probiotics for constipation.