Study finds probiotics and prebiotics help with constipation
Research into probiotics for constipation is becoming ever more common and now a new, soon to be published, study adds to the evidence that suggests specific strains (see Probiotics Learning Lab for more glossary terms) of bacteria, accompanied with prebiotics, may help with the condition. NHS statistics suggest that 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 3 children have constipation at any one time in the UK. Common causes of constipation include:
- a low in fibre diet
- a low intake of fluids
- ignoring the urge to go to the toilet
- mental stress/illness (such as anxiety or depression)
For most cases, simply addressing the issues above can resolve constipation. However, in more serious and long-term cases, self-medicating with over the counter medicines, or GP prescribed laxatives are common. This may be effective in the short-term but laxatives are not recommended for any extended period of time. Research into alternative, and more natural, solutions could provide long-term sufferers of constipation with a better option.
The latest research from Campinas State University in Brazil observed patients with chronic constipation in a randomised, double-blind, controlled study. The volunteers were split into two groups; one of which received a combination of prebiotics and probiotics (the treatment group), while the other group received placebo (the control group). Both groups were given 180ml of yoghurt every morning for two weeks, which in the treatment group was also supplemented with a prebiotic (see Probiotics Learning Lab) and probiotic combination, including Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® and Bifidobacterium lactis HN019.
Results showed that the treatment group had a much improved gastrointestinal transit time and as well as reduced constipation symptoms, in comparison to the control group.
Above: The study yoghurt contained L. acidophilus NCFM®
The authors of the study commented on their findings, "Functional foods could be promising in alleviating motility problems of the gastrointestinal tract, in relation to irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. Besides this, there is data showing that the intestinal microbiota is diverse among healthy individuals and sufferers of constipation. In such case, intervention with probiotics could be accompanied by modification of intestinal transit time."
Previous studies have found the potential of the probiotic strainB. lactis BB-12® and prebiotic fructooligosaccharides (FOS), to help improve gut microbiota and frequency of defecation in healthy volunteers, and in a separate study B. lactis was shown to help improve constipation in pregnant women. Healthcare professionals may also be interested to read our scientific evidence on B. lactis BB-12® here.
Reference: Magro, D. et al (2014) Effect of yoghurt containing polydextrose, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis HN019: a randomized, double-blind, controlled study in chronic constipation. Nutrition Journal. Published online ahead of print.