Chronic constipation affects
nearly 3% children in the Western world.
Studies also indicate that a number of these children continue to have
this problem beyond puberty.
Probiotics are live
microorganisms that provide health benefits in a number of conditions like
diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.
They are often consumed in fermented foods like yogurt and include
bacteria like lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria.
Earlier studies conducted in adults have demonstrated that a fermented
dairy products containing the bacterium Bifidobacterium
lactis DN-173 010 improved constipation without any side effects
. Probiotics could possibly act in constipation by two mechanisms -
one, by correcting the altered gut microflora and two, by altering the pH in
A study was recently
published that evaluated the use of a fermented milk product containing the
same bacterium Bifidobacterium lactis
DN-173 010 as well as two other
bacteria Streptococcus thermophilus
and Lactobacillus bulgaricus
children with constipation. The study
was conducted in 159 children between February and November 2008. Children in the age-group between 3 and 16
from Netherlands and Poland were included in the study. Some children received the probiotic
formulation whereas others were administered an inert substance or placebo for
comparison of the effects. The placebo
was similar in appearance to the probiotic formulation; thus the patients were
unaware whether they were receiving the probiotic or placebo. The probiotic or placebo was administered
twice a day for three weeks.
The researchers found that though the stool frequency improved in the
probiotic -treated group, it also improved in the placebo group
. The difference in stool frequency was not statistically different
between the two groups at the end of 3 weeks.
There was only a significant decrease in flatulence in the
probiotic-treated group. No serious
adverse effects were noted in any of the groups.
The researchers thus conclude that based on this study, probiotics
cannot be currently recommended to treat constipation in children
. They do admit however, that the study had some limitations based
on its design. Further studies may be
required to establish the role of probiotics in constipation in children.
Milk Containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 in Childhood Constipation: A
Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Trial; Merrit M. Tabbers et al; Pediatrics
2011; 127 (6): pp. e1392 -e1399.