There are many causes and contributing factors to constipation. Imbalanced gut bacteria may indeed be one of the causes and probiotics can work towards giving you relief in that area! However, did you know that not all strains of gut bacteria are equal? We have 100 trillion bacteria in our gut and about 6,000 different strains of bacteria, and they all have different roles to play.
So which strain has the job of helping me go to the toilet you are asking! Well in fact there is one particular strain which has been shown again and again in research to be beneficial for those with constipation and that strain is... drum roll.... Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®!
Research on those people with constipation has reported lower levels of beneficial Bifidobacteria1 Lots of research has been carried out on the strain Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12®. This strain is actually called Bifidobacterium animalis lactis BB-12® but tends to be shortened to Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® of even BB-12 which is perhaps now the world’s most researched strain of Bifidobacteria, has dozens of studies supporting its use to improve digestive function and immunity.
Numerous clinical trials have shown that taking a probiotic BB-12® can increase the frequency of bowel movements and improve stool properties without negative side effects2,3,4. A study performed by Nishida et al3 on a group of 20-39 year old women showed an increase in stool frequency in those suffering with constipation. The group taking B. lactis BB-12® showed an increase in both Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli levels. Interestingly, even though those who had been constipated had an increase in frequency of bowel movements, those who were non constipated did not have an increase in bowel movements when taking B. lactis BB-12®. This suggests a balancing effect which is what we need to aim for, that the bowel is actually rebalanced.
So how does Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® increase regularity?
BB-12® produces enzymes which break down undigested matter and hardened blockages within the bowel. It also produces something called short chain fatty acids which help with bowel movements in several ways! Firstly it’s lubricating making it easier for the stool to travel down the bowel. Secondly it acts as a fuel for the gut wall cells which stimulates peristalsis. As well as this, probiotic BB-12® helps repair the gut lining, stimulates gut-associated lymphoid tissue (where much of our immune system lies) and regulates epithelial (gut wall) cell growth. So, all in all, a pretty potent tonic for a sluggish and impaired gut.
Where can I find the BB-12® strain to help me?
This nifty little strain of Bifidobacterium can be found in a product by OptiBac Probiotics. OptiBac Probiotics has packaged B. lactis BB-12® with an amount of fibre into a product called ‘Bifidobacteria & fibre’. This product is particularly useful for helping to alleviate constipation as it has both the BB-12® probiotic and the fibre that is needed to help bulk up the stool so it can move through the digestive tract more easily. This supplement aimed at constipation combined with some of the other recommendations on this site will hopefully help you to become more regular or indeed feel able to stop taking laxatives, leading to a feeling of vitality and strength.
We would love to hear if any of you have had any success with this particular strain of Bifidobacterium.
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1. Kumar, C. Et al. (2012) Bifidobacteria for Life Betterment, World Applied Science Journal, 17(11) 1454-1465
2. Matsumoto, M. et al. (2001) Effect of Yoghurt with Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12® in Improving Fecal Microflora and Defecation of Healthy Volunteers. Journal of Intestinal Microbiology; 14(2): pp. 97-102
3. Nishida, S. et al. (2004) Effect of Yoghurt Containing Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® on Improvement of Defecation and Fecal Microflora of Healthy Female Adults. Milk Science; 53(2): pp. 71-80
4. Murakami, T. et al (2006) Safety and effect of yoghurt containing Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12® on improvement of defecation and faecal microflora in healthy volunteers. Journal of Nutritional Food; 9 pp. 15-26