Can Probiotics help your poop?
Here are the best ways to understand if Probiotics are making you Poop….
- Have you noticed more frequency of bathroom journeys?
- Can you feel your gut being more active during the day?
- Have you noticed a change in shape or color of poop?
- Are you feeling Less bloated?
Keep reading to learn more….
Even though it is the last phase of the digestive process, pooping is nonetheless extremely important to our health. The rhythm and frequency of our bowel movements, as well as the color and odor of our feces, can tell us a surprising amount of information about the state of our gastrointestinal system and our general bill of health. Coprology/Skatology, or the study of human feces, is not, in any shape or form, a glamorous subject; however, as uncomfortable as it might make us, we need to learn and talk about our excrement.
These days, no conversation about the human bowel, or about the gastrointestinal system and its accompanying disorders, would be complete without mention of probiotics. Probiotic supplements are composed of live microorganisms that are highly beneficial to human gastrointestinal health, and whose primary purpose is to restore balance and equilibrium to the intestinal bacterial flora. Probiotics are an effective and immediate method for treating various gastrointestinal disorders and a fantastic tool in normalizing stool.
WHAT CAN OUR POOP TELL US?
Before we begin our conversation about probiotics and the potential beneficial effect they might provide to our gastrointestinal health and the regulation of our bowel, let us define a few things. Across the many cultures of the world, there are various euphemistic, colloquial, and profane terms that describe human excrement.
Human excrement is composed of feces. Feces are the solid remains of partially digested food that have decomposed as they travel through the gastrointestinal tract. Human feces are slightly acidic and are composed almost entirely of water, with only about a third of their weight corresponding to organic solids. These organic solids, in turn, are composed of bacterial biomass and undigested carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Small traces of metabolic waste and some epithelial shedding are also found in human feces.
Defecation, which is the physical expulsion of feces from the body, can potentially provide a keen observer with some subtle and not so subtle clues as to the state of health of the individual. The physiological mechanisms behind defecation are complex, but in essence, revolve around the voluntary and involuntary contraction of the sphincter and rectal muscles as well as peristalsis of the intestinal walls.
There are two factors involved in the defecation process which are telling in regards to the general and gastrointestinal health of a given individual.
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First and foremost, we must carefully observe the form and physical characteristics of a patient’s feces. Doctors and healthcare providers look to the general form of a patient’s excretion as a powerful diagnostic aid. Principally they look for the following characteristics.
SHAPE: The physical shape and consistency of a person’s feces can tell us a great deal since it depends to some degree to the amount of time that the patient’s stool remains in the colon. A bowel movement can be hard and lumpy, soft and shaped like blobs, sausage-shaped, smooth, mushy, watery, or entirely liquid in the case of a diarrheic disease. A descriptive visual scale was developed to keep track of and provide an accurate tool for the assessment of a patient’s stool appearance and consistency. This seven-point scale, called the Bristol Scale, has been validated against healthy control subjects and in patients with various gastrointestinal disorders.
COLOR: The color of a person’s feces is yet another valuable highly informative diagnostic tool for medical assessment. The excrement of an otherwise healthy individual is ordinarily light to dark brown due to the presence of bile and bilirubin.
Any other color variation should be considered abnormal, especially if observed over prolonged periods of time. Black or red color, for example, is indicative of the presence of blood. If red feces are observed it can be deduced that there undigested blood present in the stool; which would mean there is a bleeding lesion somewhere along the gastrointestinal tract. Black stools, on the other hand, imply the presence of blood that has had time to be digested by gastric action.
Other commonly observed colors:
- Gray: Grey fecal matter could indicate a gallbladder obstruction, hepatitis, parasitic infection, pancreatitis, and even cirrhosis.
- Green: Green fecal matter can be symptomatic of dysfunctional digestion where bile is not fully broken down by digestion before it is excreted.
- Yellow: Yellow feces are usually seen in patients with Celiac disease, Cystic Fibrosis, and Pancreatic Disorders. Yellow coloration of excrement is due mainly to partially digested fats.
The last factor regarding gastrointestinal health about defecation is the frequency with which the patient has a bowel movement. Although there are no established norms for bowel movement frequency that apply to every single individual, as there is room for acceptable variation, there exists a range that is considered adequate. Generally speaking, anywhere from three times a day to three times per week can be considered normal for a healthy adult. The important thing to look out for is a significant deviation from the norm in the frequency of the defecation.
Unfortunately, most data regarding this topic comes from an outdated study published in the United States in the seventies. Another study that was run by the Bristol Royal Infirmary concluded that only about 40% of the population has a twenty-four-hour bowel movement cycle and that the majority of people suffer from irregular defecation. Another finding of the study was that most stool movements were suboptimal regarding comfort.
Since only a minority of adults enjoys normal bowel movement frequency, and less than half pass normal stools, it is especially urgent that we identify methods in which we can effectively improve these trends, and probiotics offer the most effective solution.
PROBIOTICS AND BOWEL HEALTH
The health benefits of probiotic therapies have been espoused at length by various reputable sources. The live, beneficial bacteria that are found in probiotic foods are effective and efficient at improving digestive health, immune function, and can even aid in weight loss. However, the frequency of your bowel movements and the ease with which you pass your stools can also be positively affected by probiotics. How can probiotic products aid with defecation?
DIARRHEIC DISEASE: Diarrhea caused by viral infection or as the result of antibiotic therapy can be effectively treated with probiotic supplements. There is extensive evidence for the use of probiotics such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii for the effective treatment of acute infectious diarrhea. These particular strains are highly effective in reducing the duration of the disease. Surprisingly, these same organisms are quite apt at protecting against upper respiratory infections; which serves to highlight the importance of intestinal flora in immune function.
CONSTIPATION: Any degree of significant difficulty in voiding one’s bowels due to a hardening of the fecal matter is considered constipation. The use of probiotic strains for the treatment of constipation has been analyzed, and the results are promising as they suggest a positive effect for constipation and its related symptoms. Most favorable are the strains of Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus casei, especially in regards to increasing frequency of defecation and stool consistency. A group of researchers at King’s College analyzed a set of randomized trials and found that all arrived at the same conclusion that probiotics, especially those containing strains of Bifidobacterium helped to soften stools noticeably and made defecation easier.
BOWEL REGULARITY: Even though there is a degree of variation amongst individuals in the regularity of bowel movements, we consider anything less than four total defecations abnormal and cause for concern. Irregular bowel movements are at best a nuisance and cause for embarrassment and at worst the potential sign of a much more severe condition.
Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome are all conditions known to cause or exacerbate bowel movement irregularity. Enlarged hemorrhoids, intestinal polyps, and even colorectal cancer have repeatedly been associated with bowel irregularity.
One of the most severe side effects of having irregular defecation is the potential development of Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis, or Dysbacteriosis as it is also known, is a condition wherein a bacteriological imbalance arises within the human intestinal microbiota. Dysbiosis is a serious condition because of the beneficial bacteria found inside the human gut can efficiently keep in check the growth of harmful strains.
Therefore, when an imbalance occurs, not only will the patient lose the health benefits of good bacteria, they will also be at an increased risk of suffering from various diseases caused by the sudden growth of pathogenic microorganisms. A recent review by McFarland, et al., concluded that in almost 80 percent of cases probiotic therapies could restore, or at least improve, current micro-biota population thus arresting the harmful effects of dysbiosis.
Our gastrointestinal tracts are composed of billions of bacteria and when a population imbalance arises various potentially dangerous conditions might develop. Since a significant percentage of the beneficial bacteria that inhabit in our gut are of the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains, it makes sense that probiotic products made up with these specific strains will be highly beneficial in restoring balance to the human microflora and thus reducing the risk of developing any harmful conditions.
Probiotics are also efficient at producing lactic acid and other short chain fatty acids that reduce pH levels in the gastrointestinal tract while increasing peristalsis therefor regulating bowel movement frequency. Lastly, probiotics can improve intestinal regularity by inducing mucus secretion and improving the metabolism of bile salt conversion; this helps with water absorption and makes stools dramatically softer and easier to pass. Even though many triggers cause gastrointestinal disorders and bowel irregularity; studies have consistently shown that probiotic treatments are effective in most of the cases.
In summary YES they can make you poop a lot if you do not approach your consumption of Probiotics seriously.
It can also be desirable if you suffer from constipation as Probiotics act as a natural laxative. However both extremes are not desirable, the goal is to achieve a healthy balance in your gut.
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