What Is the Deal with Constipation?
Around 12 – 14% of the global population experiences constipation or chronic constipation or a lack of bowel movement at least once in their lifetime and, to no one’s surprise, it is not fun as it can cause abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, an increase in stomach acids or worse. Moreover, almost half of all users of over-the-counter remedies, such as laxatives and stool softeners, in a bid to aid digestive health, constipation, and the symptoms of constipation are not satisfied with the results, often claiming that they are ineffective or have some other sort of issue. What, then, is the solution? More and more studies have been championing probiotic supplements as a solution to constipation and there is strong evidence to support these claims.
Last update on 2018-12-16 at 00:53 PST - Details
What Are Probiotics and How Do They Help with Constipation?
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria and yeast commonly found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, dark chocolate, and miso soup, among others. They are good for your digestive system because they help to repopulate and renew wonderful bacteria living in your stomach that help you digest food and keep your gut healthy.
Specifically, some claimed benefits of ingesting probiotics include reduction of gastrointestinal discomfort, strengthening of the immune system, and helping to counteract constipation.
In fact, researchers at King’s College, London, researched 14 credible studies that supported findings that probiotics slowed gut transit time by 12.4 hours, increased the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3, and helped soften stools making them easier to pass. The studies found that Bifidobacterium, one of the more commonly used probiotics, was the most effective. However, the other most commonly used probiotic (Lactobacillus) is still effective in its own right.
What to Look for When Buying Probiotics for Constipation?
Probiotics are measured in colony-forming units (CFUs). In technical terms, “colony-forming” is the ability to multiply by binary fission under controlled conditions and counts only viable cells (living cells capable of reproduction). The unit counts the actual number of viable and active cells that are able to colony-form, which simply means that more is better.
Additionally, you want to look at how many probiotic strains are included in the probiotic supplement, as well as which strains they are. There is no definitive research that has proven which probiotic is better and which is worse, but there is some strong evidence that the two have somewhat different effects on your stomach environment.
Lactobacilli seems to perform better for antibiotic-associated issues, which means that the nuclear annihilation your gut flora takes when you are on a course of antibiotics should be managed best using any L-strain probiotic. Conversely, gastrointestinal issues such as IBS and constipation seem to respond better to Bifidobacteria.
In fact, when discussing remedies for constipation, there are a few specific strains that you should be on the lookout for several studies have pinpointed Bifidobacteriumlactis, Lactobacillus casei, and Bifidobacteriumlongum, in that order, as beneficial when used to treat constipation.
The research is not definitive, although the studies are well regarded, but we still think that your best bet is to maintain a healthy mix of both Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria when combating constipation. For the purpose of our recommendations, we advise looking for probiotics that contain at least one (if not more) strain of the Bif and the more of it the better!
Refrigeration should not really be a huge concern, but it is worth being aware of. On the off chance you have no space in the refrigerator (or no refrigerator at all), are worried about children having access or are planning a long trip or backpacking adventure (we think those are all the scenarios) you should be fine with probiotics that need to stay in the fridge, as there doesn’t seem to be a correlation between refrigerated probiotic results compared to shelved probiotics.
We are going to sort our list in ascending order of CFUs, as it is one of the most important factors to take into account. Secondly, the number of probiotic strains highlights the diversity of the product and is just as important—if not more important—than the number of CFUs. Ultimately, the number of CFUs and probiotic strains should be looked at together as the two most important factors to look at when fighting constipation with probiotics.
Additionally, it is important to remember that we are looking specifically to fight constipation and the best probiotic strains for this are any of the Bifidobacteria, specifically lactis and longum, as well as Lactobacillus casei.
While we recommend the higher-count products with more probiotic strains at the bottom of the list, it is worth checking the whole list out, as they all have their own variable benefits regardless of these numbers.
Top 5 Best Probiotics for Constipation
Last update on 2018-12-16 at 00:53 PST - Details
Align is probably the most commercialized and recognizable brand for probiotic supplements on the market.
It is a product of Metamucil, which is a subsidiary of Procter & Gamble. The fact that it is owned by such a ubiquitous brand means that some substantial research and development went into this product.
In fact, they even invented and patented their own strain of probiotic bacteria and it is the only one found in the product.
Although only one probiotic is found in the product, and the CFUs are incredibly low when compared to others on this list, Align does contain the Bifidobacterium that we are looking for to tackle constipation complications.
Additionally, Metamucil has some clout in the gastrointestinal scene, so there can be a strong level of confidence that the product is effective. They guarantee 1 billion CFUs when manufactured and an effective level of 10 million CFUs until at least the “best by” date. Align can also be stored at room temperature.
Align is on the higher end of the price scale and ties for the highest price per pill on this list with Probiotic 1030 (#2) and Ultimate Flora (#1). So, unless you only feel secure buying name brands, this feels a bit too pricey for such a low CFU and only one probiotic strain.
Advanced Probiotics is a great and well-rounded probiotic, which provides a low-end amount of CFUs, and a decent mix of strains to ensure that your gut receives some well-rounded benefits from taking it regularly.
Interestingly, this product contains a spore-forming strain of probiotic called Bacillus subtilis which has been shown to support the normal proliferation of beneficial bacteria and standard immune reaction of intestinal cells.
Spore-forming strains also remain incredibly viable under a wide range of temperatures, giving you a bit more peace of mind that these probiotics are working no matter what, and guaranteeing that this product does not need to be refrigerated.
Advanced Probiotics is also a pretty great value as far as cost per pill goes sitting in the mid-range and financially is a fairly good choice.
Webber Naturals is a very well-known and respected brand when it comes to health products, and you have likely seen their products at your neighborhood drug store, which should give you some faith that they are the real deal.
Each capsule contains 30 billion per capsule at the expiry date of the CFUs (about 6 times as many as Advanced Probiotics) and an insane 75 billion CFUs at manufacture date (about 15 times as many as Advanced Probiotics), as well as an extra probiotic strain.
There are no spore-forming strains in this product, but Webber Naturals guarantees that you still don’t need to refrigerate these capsules for them to remain effective.
They are the only producer on this list to give you an effective range of CFUs from manufacture date to expiry date, which really shows how thorough and knowledgeable they are about their products, making this a very smart choice. Moreover, this is one of the best bangs for your buck in comparison to other probiotics and is the lowest cost per capsule on our list.
We do think that Webber Naturals is an outstanding probiotic for fighting constipation and the only reason it is third instead of first on our list is that we think it could contain more Bif (and more strains in general). That being said, we believe it is by far the best value.
Last update on 2018-12-16 at 00:53 PST - Details
1030 has the same number of CFUs as Webber Naturals but contains two more probiotic strains, one of which is an extra Bifidobacterium and, remember, we like the Bif specifically for constipation complications! The overall diversity of your gut flora is important, and 10 strains at 30 billion CFUs definitely helps to promote it.
Moreover, Probiotic 1030 also manages to be the only probiotic supplement on our list to hit the Constipation trifecta, containing Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacteriumlactis, and longum.
Although all of the factors should ultimately be taken into account, including CFU and number of strains, the fact that this product contains three of the best probiotics for fighting constipation, makes it a real contender for top spot.
These probiotics also do not need to be refrigerated, making them as versatile as the rest on this list (and better than ones that aren’t on this list that do require refrigeration).
As mentioned, Probiotic 1030 is priced similarly (price/capsule) to Align and Ultimate Flora, which makes sense considering its high CFU count and 10 probiotic strains. Although one of the pricier options on the list, the value is definitely there.
Ultimate Flora comes in at number one on our list for several reasons. First, it claims that its capsules contain a whopping 50 billion CFUs.
This is the highest level of CFUs on our list, meaning that your gut will be absolutely packed with beneficial bacteria, which is one of the primary factors we are looking for to put a stop to constipation.
Moreover, it contains 10 probiotic strains, which is tied for highest on this list and will give your gut flora some great diversity and create an all-around great intestinal environment.
It also contains a comparably high ratio of Bifidobacterium to Lactobacillus, which makes it a huge winner, since the Bif is suggested to perform better than Lacto at combatting constipation.
Ultimate Flora should be refrigerated as it is only shelf stable for 30 days.
Tied for the priciest product with Probiotic 1030 and Align, Ultimate Flora, at least, has the strongest ingredient base and corresponding results to back up its price.
We think the price is fair for what you are getting but, if you are budgeting your money, you should absolutely pick up Webber Naturals.
Overall, we think this is a very well-rounded list. There aren’t any concrete scientific research facts that definitively state what the perfect choice for probiotics is, otherwise they would all be the same. That being said, there are tons of supporting research facts that suggest what helps with constipation and what makes a better probiotic supplement.
The choices here are all good and there is a little bit of something for everybody, depending on what you are looking for. We will definitively say that we believe the best bang for your buck is the Webber Naturals Probiotic and your best overall product is Ultimate Flora. Here is a table to break it all down for you:
Ultimate Flora (Best Product)
Probiotic 1030 (Constipation Trifecta)
Webber Naturals Probiotic (Best Value)
Align (The Name Brand)
CFUs at Manufacture Date (in billions)