Childhood constipation is more than just a nuisance, children who suffer frequently with constipation have a lower quality of life. Being constipated traumatizes kids, causes them pain and is inconvenient for parents.
Sometimes dietary changes such as adding more fiber to a child’s diet and reducing the amount of cow’s milk they drink helps – but there’s another option for relieving constipation in children that not all parents are aware of – probiotics.
Treating constipation in children with probiotics: Does it help?
According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, probiotics can help to relieve childhood constipation. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that live in the intestine and help to regulate the immune system and digestive function. The benefits of probiotic bacteria for good intestinal health are just starting to be recognized.
When researchers gave 20 constipated children between the ages of 3 and 16 the probiotic bacteria Bifidobacterium breve every day for a month, the kids had an increased number of bowel movements and a healthier stool consistency. They also reported less abdominal discomfort due to constipation.
Although researchers used Bifidobacterium breve in this study, other “good” bacteria including Bifidobacterium bifidium and Lactobacillus acidophilus increase the frequency of bowel movements too, although they’ve mainly been tested in adults.
Probiotic bacteria not only has benefits for relieving constipation in children but also for treating other intestinal problems such as stomach inflammation due to viruses and diarrhea related to taking antibiotics.
Are probiotics safe for relieving constipation in children?
Probiotics are safe for children as long as they have a healthy immune system. Kids who have a weakened immune system for any reason shouldn’t take them. Getting more probiotic bacteria may have another benefit too. According to some studies, kids who take probiotics get fewer colds and miss less days from school. This is probably related to the immune-enhancing effect of probiotics.
Probiotics and childhood constipation: The bottom line?
You can buy probiotic supplements at most health food stores, but there are wide variations in quality and potency – and not all strains of probiotic bacteria are necessarily effective for treating constipation. Look for one that contains Bifidiobacter breve.
Before placing your child on a probiotic supplement, try giving them a container of yogurt with active bacterial cultures each day for two weeks to see if it helps the symptoms. Yogurt is a natural source of friendly intestinal bacteria that help to fight constipation.
Also, talk to your child’s doctor first. Constipation can sometimes be a sign of more serious medical problems.