Can Probiotics Cause Constipation?

Nikhil Goswami

Probiotics are microorganisms (bacteria and yeasts) that provide multiple health benefits. You can find many supplements providing your body with a large number of probiotics. If you are not interested in supplements, many fermented products like yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha are also rich in probiotics.

While probiotics can be a reason you have problems with your bowel movements, we first need to understand the proper definition of constipation. Many people think constipation is when it is hard to poop. But in reality, if you have to poop less than usual, it means you are constipated. So, probiotics cause constipation if you visit the washroom less frequently after using the supplements. That is not all; there could be other reasons behind your constipation, and probiotics might help cure them.

Is Constipation Common With Probiotics?

Constipation is not common with probiotics, but it can happen. It all depends on how your body reacts to probiotic supplements. However, supplements are not the only way to give your body the necessary probiotics; some foods are helpful.

You can switch to probiotic-rich foods if your body reacts adversely while using a supplement. If it does cause constipation, you need to be careful in the initial stages. Most likely, your constipation will stay for a week or maybe four to five days. However, if it lasts for more than that, you should consult your doctor.

If you take preventive measures in the initial stages, you will not end up experiencing adverse side effects. Lack of fiber in your diet is one reason you experience such issues after taking probiotics. If you increase the fiber in your diet, your body will have more chances to recover from constipation.

So, those who already eat fiber-rich food will not have bowel issues after taking such supplements. Eating fiber-rich food improves gut health; it will improve the overall bacteria levels in your gut and increase fiber levels. Enhanced fiber levels can lead to an improvement in your digestion. On the other hand, bloating and gas are common when you take probiotics for the first time.

The reason is that your body is still getting used to the increased probiotics levels. Your digestive system might have slowed down in breaking down the food, leading to water retention. It then leads to a feeling of fullness (bloating) or constipation. The good news is that all these symptoms are not harmful as long as they disappear within a few days. If you want to speed up the recovery process, reduce the daily intake and let your body adjust slowly.

Cautions When Using Probiotics for the First Time

Probiotics help fix the gut microbiome, which helps control digestion and improve immunity. If you are unsure how your body will react to probiotics, it is better to consult your physician before using them.

They can tell you the proper dosage and method to take probiotic supplements so they will not cause constipation or other problems. It would be even better to use probiotic foods first, like pickles, yogurt, sourdough bread, and more, to see how your body reacts to a low dosage of probiotics.

If everything remains fine, you can choose to go for a supplement for a higher dosage. However, while using foods, make sure to monitor the changes that occur in your body. If you experience minor discomfort, they might worsen when you use bacteria-based probiotic supplements.

Be careful to use fermented foods as they might contain possible allergens. Another solution or precaution is to take probiotics on an empty stomach. Moreover, you can also use digestive enzyme supplements, so your digestive tract can easily break down the food. That will remove the problems of gas and bloating.

If you start feeling symptoms of constipation after taking probiotics, reduce the dosage and use anti-constipation medicines. That will help your body to get used to probiotics slowly, and the medicine will help manage the pain caused by constipation. Unless your body is strong enough to endure a massive amount of probiotics easily, a supplement will cause constipation.

It is unavoidable; however, you can take preventive measures to avoid experiencing such symptoms. Let your body slowly adapt to the extra probiotics, and seek advice from your doctor on how to manage the side effects. 

Are Probiotics Helpful or Harmful?

Your body contains millions of bacteria, both harmful and useful. Probiotics increase the number of useful bacteria, thus, enhancing your overall health. That useful bacteria can help improve your immunity and digestive health so you can get the necessary nutrients, and the waste leaves your body without complications.

Probiotics can cause constipation, but it will not be that alarming. You might feel cramping in your stomach, and the urge to empty the bowels will irritate you. Once your body gets used to probiotics, they can help improve your bowel movements, making it easy for the stools to pass.

While probiotics might cause constipation, they can also help your body to fight it. It would be best to reduce the probiotic intake until your bowels are normal again. Mostly it depends on how your body reacts to a high dose of probiotics, so there is no fixed answer whether probiotics will be helpful or not.

It all depends on your body’s response to it. On the other hand, if your body accepts the probiotics, they can bring multiple health benefits. Probiotics bring healthy bacteria to improve the efficiency of your intestine too. So, your intestine will absorb more nutrients, and less food will be converted to waste.

Symptoms of Constipation

Do not confuse constipation with diarrhea; that is a different condition where you have loose bowels. In diarrhea, you will have loose and watery stools. You will experience stomach cramps and a rumbly tummy and must visit the washroom often to relieve yourself.

Constipation is when you have a hard time or experience pain while pooping. If you go to the washroom once to empty your bowels daily, you might not get anything out for days when constipated.

The waste inside the large intestine gets hard due to the colon absorbing the water, and you feel pain while pushing it out. If you feel any of the following symptoms, there is a high chance that you are constipated.

  • Stomach Ache

The first thing you will feel while constipation is a stomach ache. Since your body did not digest the food properly, it will cause pain. The pain gets severe as your stomach tries to digest more food, which keeps happening until the food passes to the intestine. In such cases, it is better to keep an empty stomach or eat something light without spices. Taking constipation medicines can lessen the symptoms.

However, if you use probiotics before these symptoms, reduce the supplement dosage until your stomach ache is gone. Since your stomach did not digest the food properly, it will go forward and start getting hard as the liquid gets pulled from it. This is where it becomes clear that you have constipation. 

It might take up to three to four days for the pain to go away, but if it stays for more than a week, visit your doctor as soon as possible. Take the probiotic strains you took and show them to the doctor so that they can provide a proper remedy. On the other hand, a stomach ache could happen due to any reason.

You can ask your doctor and see if probiotics are the reason or if it is something else. If the reason for your stomach ache is something else, feel free to use the probiotics.

  • Difficulty in Bowel Movement

You might feel like you need to visit the washroom, but nothing comes out every time you sit down and push. After a whole day, this sensation gets painful as the stool inside the intestine gets hard and lumpy. As the stool remains in your large intestine, pushing it out gets harder.

This can happen due to probiotics, but many other reasons exist. It is better to treat this condition in its initial stages before the stool gets impacted. You can take anti-constipation pills or liquid medication to eliminate this issue. However, the medicine will take around 24 hours to work properly.

In the meantime, stay calm and do not try to force the stools out since it can cause rectal bleeding. While you have constipation, avoid eating chips, fast food, meat, and processed and frozen food. Also, avoid alcohol since it can worsen your constipation. Eat vegetables, high-fiber food, whole grains, beans, and fruit to keep you energized while the medicine takes care of the rest.

  • Bleeding During Bowel Movement

If you see blood coming out of your bottom instead of a stool, it means a hard lump of stool is in your intestine, causing damage.

A small amount of blood is not a big concern as your intestine will heal much quicker, but the problem is severe if there is a lot of blood. While bleeding, you cannot empty the bowels as it will cause more damage.

Instead, you can take medications that can help increase the healing process, and then you can take pills for constipation to get rid of stools. Many medicines are available that go through your intestine and soften the stool, which helps them go out quickly.

Do not wait any longer; if you see blood during a bowel movement, visit your doctor and explain everything. They will prescribe you the necessary medicine to help get rid of stools faster.

  • Loss of Appetite

It will not happen in the initial stages, but as your body stops digesting food, you will feel a loss of appetite.

This could happen for many reasons, and constipation is one of them. If you have taken yeast-based probiotics, chances are that your loss of appetite is because of constipation. If your urge to eat stays low for two to three days, visit your doctor and consult them about the issue.

On the other hand, you can wait and see if your appetite returns, which can also bring severe constipation symptoms. Since there is no surety, it is better to seek medical help before things worsen.

Your doctor will offer your medications or supplement to enhance your appetite if your condition is not because of constipation. Otherwise, you might have to keep your stomach empty until your bowels are cleared.

  • Nausea

The urge to vomit because your body did not absorb food properly indicates constipation. This is another symptom you will experience after taking the best probiotic supplement. However, you will vomit a little in most cases, and the nausea goes away. But if this feeling stays for more than one day, consult your doctor to check if you are constipated or not.

On the other hand, it could also happen due to gas buildup. So, before you do anything else, drink some carbonated drinks such as sparkling water or eat pickles to see if the gas goes away.

What Else Can Cause Constipation

Probiotics are not always responsible for your constipation. Other issues like lack of physical activity, poor stress management, and lack of fiber and fluids can cause constipation. In kids, most constipation cases come from their diet. Your body needs to be fully functional to digest the food; if you are not feeling well, chances are you will experience mild constipation. 

Though not always the case, you might experience hard lumps of stools when constipated. Even a big chunk of impacted stool can cause mild constipation; you might spend more time in the washroom to relieve yourself. In such cases, your bowels are fine, and you will get a sudden urge to empty them, but nothing comes out when you try.

You would want the urge to strain yourself but avoid doing so. You can increase your fiber intake to increase the amount of beneficial and healthy bacteria in your intestine.

They can help reduce constipation symptoms and always keep your bowels in normal condition. Moreover, constipation does not mean your health is at risk, but it is better to visit a doctor before things get serious. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, seek medical care immediately.

What Not to Do When Constipated

Certain practices can help rid constipation faster, but you must be careful while adopting them. Here are some methods to help treat constipation and improve your bowel movement:

  • Change Your Diet Abruptly

Most children experience constipation because of allergies or their diet. Children can be picky about the food they eat, but most outgrow it. However, in adults, it can be quite hard to determine the main cause of constipation. If you want a healthy gut and good metabolism, you should learn to eat a balanced diet. 

If you are not eating fiber-filled food, it is better to add them to your diet slowly. Let your body acclimate to the change, and do not change it abruptly. Moreover, do not go cold turkey and stop eating what you like.

  • Take Medication Without Prescription

Using medicine without a prescription can lead to adverse side effects that might worsen your constipation. It is always better to consult your doctor and get the right medicine so things should work out well.

  If you are already taking medicine for blood pressure, depression, or have an eating disorder, you might need to quit using them until your constipation is cured. These medicines can cause or enhance the severity of constipation.

Always ask your doctor if you plan to stop using them or if there are alternatives they can recommend that will not aggravate your constipation.

  • Eat Only Soluble Fiber Diet

Eating a low-fiber diet leads to constipation, but that does not mean you should start eating an excessive fiber-rich diet. There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble – only the soluble fiber is useful to help remove constipation symptoms.

You can find soluble fiber in diets like avocado, oranges, apricots, nuts and seeds, oat bran and oatmeal, broccoli, sweet potato, etc. Intake of fiber-filled food will only work if your diet is causing constipation; otherwise, you are good to stick to your usual diet routine.

  • Rely Only on Probiotics Supplements

Probiotics are excellent for our gut health as they maintain healthy gut flora. However, taking lots of probiotics can lead to constipation since your body is not used to getting such high numbers of probiotics. You might experience mild constipation, but things can get severe if you keep using probiotic supplements.

It is better to go for probiotic foods like yogurt, kimchi, pickles, or miso to improve your probiotics levels. Since they do not have a high number of probiotics, your body will improve its functions without causing side effects.

  • Drink More Water

Dehydration can cause constipation, so drinking lots of water can help solve this condition. However, it only works if you are dehydrated. If your water levels are okay and you still have constipation, drinking excessive water will not be helpful.

Not taking enough liquids is a bigger factor in constipation, even more than the low fiber intake. Drink plenty of water daily, and you might not get constipation at all.

  • Drink Coffee

Coffee poops are the real thing; regular and decaf coffee can help loosen your bowels, but it will not work for everyone. So, if someone gives you a suggestion to drink coffee to eliminate constipation, only drink a small cup to see how it works. If it does not work, there is no need to drink more as it has a diuretic effect and can make your constipation worse.

Using Antibiotics With Probiotics

If you have bacterial infections, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat them. They work by killing the bad bacteria in gastrointestinal flora. Taking antibiotics for a considerable time can remove the bad bacteria from your body. However, antibiotics are also responsible for killing good bacteria.

The amount might not be high, but it exposes your gut system to new bad bacteria, which can take over if you do not replace them by using probiotics. It is not advisable to use antibiotics and probiotics at the same time. After taking antibiotics, it is better to wait a few hours before taking probiotics.

Yogurt is an excellent option since probiotic supplements can cause other side effects; a low amount of probiotics is good after an antibiotic. Be careful while using antibiotics as they tend to have several side effects. Diarrhea, inflammation of the bowels, vomiting, and yeast infection are the common side effects you might experience.

Side Effects of Probiotics

We know that probiotics benefit your health if your body accepts them easily. However, that is not the case for everyone; some people can experience side effects from using probiotics.  Here are some possible side effects you might experience while using probiotics. They are minor and will not last long, and only a handful of people are affected by probiotics, so these side effects are not a big concern.

  • Unpleasant Stomach Issues

A person who has never taken probiotics before can experience bloating and gas after their first dose of probiotics. However, these side effects are temporary, and the gas will leave your body within hours.

Constipation and increased thirst are common for those who use yeast-based probiotics for the first time. It depends on whether you experience mild or severe constipation that you should worry about or not.

If the constipation is mild, you will survive the next few days, but if it gets severe, seek medical help immediately. On the other hand, some people might not face these side effects at the initial stages; instead, they get them after weeks of continuous usage. To avoid these side effects, start with a lower dosage of probiotics and increase it to the full dosage in two weeks.

Doing so will give your body enough to adjust to probiotics. However, if these side effects stay for more than a week, stop using probiotics and visit your doctor.

  • Headaches

Some probiotic foods contain biogenic amines that excite your central nervous system. What this does is that it decreases and increases your blood pressure which leads to headaches. To avoid this, use probiotic supplements or diets that have low amines.

  • Increase Histamine Levels

When your immune system detects a threat, it creates a molecule called histamine. While it is an excellent option to kill the threat, increased histamine levels can cause swelling and redness in multiple body parts. It can also lead to itching, a runny nose, and watery eyes.

To avoid this problem, ensure not to eat foods that can increase your histamine levels. For people with histamine, it is advisable to stay away from food with excess histamine. The worst part is that every probiotic supplement has histamine-producing bacteria. So, keep the dosage in control, and everything should be fine.

  • Possible Allergens Can Cause Adverse Reactions

Check the probiotic supplement label before purchasing if you have allergies or cannot tolerate a particular ingredient. Some supplements might contain ingredients like dairy, egg, or soy, which most people are allergic to.

Also, a person with yeast allergy should not opt for a yeast-based supplement; instead, they should try a bacteria-based probiotic.

On the other hand, people with lactose intolerance will face bloating or gas if they try a supplement with milk sugar or lactose.

  • Increases Infection Risk

This happens in rare cases, but if the bacteria or yeasts enter your bloodstream, they can cause infections. If your immune system is already weak, you should be careful while taking probiotic supplements. Moreover, people using multiple medicines for injuries or having undergone recent surgery should also avoid these supplements. The risk of developing an infection is low, but it can happen without warning, so playing safe is the best option.

Conclusion: How To Take Probiotics Safely? 

How can you take probiotics safely? Or can probiotics cause constipation? Yes, they can if your body cannot handle the excessive amount of probiotics. It is better to start with probiotic foods to give your body a low dosage and increase it slowly using supplements. Probiotics are safe for many people, but they can cause constipation for some.

Usually, constipation caused by probiotics is mild and will not stay for more than three to four days. However, if you still experience constipation after a week, visit your doctor.  

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