Struggling to get things moving downstairs? At risk of bursting a blood vessel as you strain on the throne?
In that case, you might be on the lookout for things that can combat constipation. Fortunately, there are quite a few different options here from over-the-counter solutions to ‘home remedies’ like prunes and prune juice that you can find in your cupboards.
But one option you might not be aware of is probiotics. And this is a big shame, considering that probiotics for constipation may work well for people. In fact, this is a generally overlooked aspect of many diets and of our health in general, so read on and learn how to improve your gut health significantly!
Probiotics are bacteria that occur naturally within the gastrointestinal tract or GI. These are a part of the digestive system and are responsible for range of important tasks.
For one, probiotics can help to neutralize and eradicate the bad bacteria that causes infection and illness. At the same time though, they also help with the production of enzymes to break down our foods and they even produce important nutrients and neurochemicals that can fortify our general health and impact on our moods. This gut ‘flora’ is actually one of the reasons that we so often hear people claim that the gut is the ‘second brain’ (that and a surprisingly large number of neurons down there!).
But what of probiotics and constipation?
Well, just as having the right bacteria in your gut can help produce enzymes to help with the digestion of food, bacteria found in the intestines and colon in particular can help to break down stool into more manageable sizes that will pass through more easily. This can also help to combat dehydration, which can lead to moisture being drawn out of the stool making it harder and more difficult to pass.
What’s more is that when you have too much bad bacteria compared with the good bacteria, this can actually cause a range of bowel problems and notably gas! Note as well that when probiotics are used in the gut to break down food, this actually helps to make it more manageable right from the start too.
This is why probiotics for constipation is such an effective option. But you might be wondering at this point why you would need extra probiotics when you know that probiotics are naturally occurring?
One answer is that our modern diets aren’t particularly good at maintaining this crucial balance. Not only are many of us dehydrated a lot of the time but we also eat large amounts of sugar which can ‘feed’ the bad bacteria and thereby lead to a negative balance.
Another issue is that many medications can actually ruin the balance of gut flora. Particularly bad for this of course are antibiotics, which work by killing off pretty much all bacteria. Because you swallow most antibiotics, that means that the first place they’re going to act is on the stomach where they will destroy both the bad and the good bacteria. This leaves you with nothing to help with the breaking down of food, with the absorption or production of nutrients or with your digestion and bowel movements generally and it can therefore lead to a range of health problems and discomfort.
While the term ‘probiotics’ can be used to refer to the healthy bacteria living in your gut, it can also be used to refer to the foods and the supplements we take in order to encourage that healthy bacteria.
Probiotics supplements will often come in capsule or powder form and are usually comprised of liquids that have an optimal combination of different strains of helpful bacteria. When you consume these capsules or powders, the bacteria can be released into your GI tract where they can get to work and go about their business.
What’s important to recognize though is that some of the little critters can be killed on their journey into your stomach by heat or by the process of swallowing. Make sure that you keep your supplements in the fridge and read around to select the best products that have the most positive reviews.
Otherwise, you can also get probiotics from certain foods that have been allowed to develop natural, health ‘cultures’ of bacteria. A good example of this is yogurt and you can buy a large number of yogurt products that have actually been fortified with additional healthy bacteria.
Another good source of probiotics is to consume fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or pickles.
To get the most from probiotics for constipation, you should also combine this with the use of other positive behaviors and remedies. Drinking plenty of water is the most important thing you can do here as very often constipation is actually caused by dehydration. At the same time, consider upping your intake of fiber which will pass through our digestive system and encourage movement. As mentioned, eating prunes is a particularly good way to get more soluble and insoluble fiber and to benefit from a range of other active ingredients too.
You can also try to encourage healthy bowel movements by drinking caffeine. Caffeine is a natural laxative and if you consume a few cups of coffee, you might well find that things start to move down there. Do make sure to add even more water in this case however, as caffeine is also diuretic and can leave you even more dehydrated.
Finally, try to stay relaxed and to take some time out. Stress causes us to contract our muscles, even those in the intestines. Try taking a warm bath and maybe some valerian root. This will relax the muscle tissue while the warmth and the water might help to stimulate a little movement.
If none of this works however, then be sure to see your doctor and rule out any more serious causes.