Can probiotics and prebiotics help treat constipation?

Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
Probiotics are live microorganisms used to benefit health. Prebiotics are non-living substances intended to promote the growth of beneficial organisms. A variety of probiotic and prebiotic agents have been tested for treatment of constipation, with varying results. High-quality studies establishing the efficacy of specific probiotic microbes at specific dosages are lacking.

One prebiotic agent, lactulose, has shown some evidence of increasing stool water content and stool volume and accelerating stool transit and frequency in patients with constipation. The probiotic agent Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus may help soften stools and increases stool frequency in children with constipation. A variety of commercial products available in stores contain some probiotic and prebiotic components, but their efficacy has not been fully studied.

Continue Learning about Dietary Supplements

Dietary Supplements

Whether you're visiting the drug store, grocery or natural food shop you'll likely find an aisle where there are jars and bottles of things for you to put in your body that are neither foods nor medicines. Ranging from vitamins an...

d minerals to fiber and herbal remedies, these supplements are not regulated in the same way as either food or medicine. Some of them are backed by solid research, others are folk remedies or proprietary cures. If your diet does not include enough of certain vitamins or minerals, a supplement may be a good idea. Natural treatment for conditions like constipation may be effective. But because these substances are unregulated, it is always a good idea to educate yourself about the products and to use common sense when taking them. This is even more true if you are pregnant or taking a medicine that may be affected by supplements.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.