Bowel “habits” can be anything but routine for elderly people in nursing homes. As nursing charts reveal, constipation and diarrhea are common troubles. The crucial menu for relief offers high-fiber choices of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Often these foods are more difficult for older people to chew, swallow and digest. Puree, everyone?
Medications are the usual solution but they can have their own problematic side effects.
Could a change in microbiota help? After all there are differences in the intestinal microbiota healthy individuals and patients with bowel problems. For instance, probiotics can produce short-chain fatty acids; the increased acidity (lower pH) enhances peristalsis in the colon.
Researchers in the Netherlands asked whether a fermented probiotic drink could improve bowel habits in nursing home residents. The work led by M. van den Nieuwboer titled Improving the bowel habits of elderly residents in a nursing home using probiotic fermented milk appears in the journal called Beneficial Microbes.
For a baseline 3 weeks, 135 nursing home residents were monitored for stool quality and number of bowel movements.
A fermented milk drink containing a strain of Lactobacillus casei was then given daily for 6 weeks. Stool quality and number of bowel movements were again recorded daily.
44 residents were compliant enough to use in results (blogger hint: maybe a bit of Dutch cocoa would have raised that number)
Results of analysis of those 44 drinking fermented milk containing a strain of Lactobacillus casei as compared to baseline:
- Increase in ideal stool types per week
- Reduction in percentage of constipation stool types
- Reduction in percentage of diarrhea stool types
- No effect on number of bowel movements
Many studies show constipation responds to probiotic intervention. Probiotics significantly improve gut transit time, stool frequency and consistency, and constipation-related symptoms, and are associated with low risk of adverse events and high rates of compliance.
A meta-analysis conducted in the United Kingdom looked at 657 randomized control trials and identified 14 studies which included 1,347 patients which could be analyzed
Probiotics in this review resulted in the following:
- Reduction of gut transit time by nearly 12 hours
- Increased stool frequency by about 1 stool per week
- Softer stool consistency
- Bloating and flatulence were reduced
The full abstract appears here in the journal called Gut.
Probiotics may help with diarrhea also as revealed in the nursing home study.