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Bifidobacterium, BB-12® may help improve symptoms of constipation

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6 Min read

Constipation is a common gastrointestinal condition that can challenge both physical and mental health, thus impacting quality of life.1 Six clinical trials have demonstrated that supplementing with the Bifidobacterium, BB-12® probiotic strain (hereafter referred to by use of its trademark BB-12®) may improve symptoms of constipation.2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 BB-12® may trigger this effect by stimulating the secretion of serotonin8 which is involved in mediating peristalsis.9 


How to maintain healthy bowel habits:

Strain: Bifidobacterium, BB-12® 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Potency: 1-10 billion CFU/day2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Although serotonin is mostly known for its function in regulating mood and social behavior, approximately 90% of the human body’s serotonin is located in the gut.10

Constipation is common and causes discomfort 

Constipation is one of the most common health conditions in the Western world, affecting up to 27% of the population.9, 11 It is broadly defined as unsatisfactory defecation characterized by infrequent stools, difficult stool passage, or both.9 Symptoms of constipation include infrequent bowel movements, hard stools, straining when passing a stool, cramps, abdominal bloating, nausea, impaired appetite and flatulence, with a desire to defecate but an inability to pass a stool.12

Health and well-being are often impacted by constipation

Constipation is thought to trigger several physical and psychological challenges and can significantly affect daily life and overall well-being.1 Factors such as a low fibre diet, dehydration, a sedentary or stressful lifestyle, older age, medication and hormonal changes can cause imbalances in the gut physiology, which may lead to constipation.9, 13

Peristalsis is central to bowel health and is mediated by serotonin

Gut motility is a complex process that includes neural and hormonal control from the colon up to the central nervous system, via the gut-brain axis.9, 14 Peristalsis is the principle movement of the gut and is predominantly mediated via the neurotransmitter serotonin.9 When a food or stool bolus distends the gut wall, specialized enteroendocrine cells release serotonin which then causes a local reflex, propelling the bolus forward along the gastrointestinal tract.9, 11

Serotonin secretion and BB-12®

One study suggests that Bifidobacterium, such as BB-12®, may positively affect the neurotransmitter system and increase peristalsis by stimulating serotonin secretion from the enteroendocrine cells.8 Further, BB-12® may inhibit pathogens and increase the number of bifidobacteria,2, 7, 15 thereby modulating the composition of the microbiome and potentially improving the intestinal environment.

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BB-12® may help alleviate constipation

Clinical trials have consistently shown that when patients with mild constipation supplement with the BB-12® probiotic strain, there is an improvement in the regularity and transit time of bowel movements.2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
As seen in the table below, six independent clinical trials have demonstrated that supplementing with the BB-12® strain (at a dose of 1 - 10 billion CFU/day) is associated with an increase in stool frequency, especially in subjects with low stool frequency before intervention.2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Documented fact box about the effectiveness of bb-12 for constipation

Supplement with BB-12® to help promote bowel health

The BB-12® probiotic strain may help to relieve symptoms of constipation.2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 Some research has shown that Bifidobacterium, such as BB-12®, may stimulate the secretion of serotonin from enteroendocrine cells, thereby increasing perstalsis.8 Click to read more about BB-12® or about probiotics for gut health.



CFU: Colony Forming Unit

BB-12® is a trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S.

The article is provided for informational purposes regarding probiotics and is not meant to suggest that any substance referenced in the article is intended to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent any disease.

Bifidobacterium, BB-12®

The probiotic strain Bifidobacterium, BB-12® is the world’s most documented probiotic bifidobacterium. It has been extensively studied and has been associated with improved outcomes across various health areas.

BB-12® is a trademark of Chr. Hansen A/S

BB-12 consumer logo TM

References Open Close

1. Wald A, et al. The burden of constipation on quality of life: results of a multinational survey. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007;26(2):227-36. (PubMed

2. Pitkala KH, et al. Fermented cereal with specific bifidobacteria normalizes bowel movements in elderly nursing home residents. A randomized, controlled trial. J Nutr Health Aging. 2007;11(4):305-11. (PubMed)

3. Eskesen D, et al. Effect of the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, BB-12®, on defecation frequency in healthy subjects with low defecation frequency and abdominal discomfort: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial. Br J Nutr. 2015;114(10):1638-46. (PubMed)

4. Matsumoto M, et al. Impact of LKM512 yogurt on improvement of intestinal environment of the elderly. FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2001;31(3):181-6. (PubMed)

5. Nishida S, et al. Effect of Yogurt Containing Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 on Improvement of Defecation and Fecal Microflora of Healthy Female Adults. Milk Science. 2004;53(2):71-80.

6. Murakami T, et al. Safety and effect of yoghurt containing Bifidobacterium lactis BB-12 on improvement of defecation and fecal microflora in healthy volunteers. J Nutr Food. 2006;9:15-26.

7. Uchida K, et al. Effect of fermented milk containing Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12 on stool frequency, defecation, fecal microbiota and safety of excessive ingestion in healthy female students - 2nd report. J Nutr Food. 2005;8:39-51.

8. Leser TD. Bifidobacteria stimulate serotonin secretion in an endocrine cell line. ASM Microbe; June 1-5 2017; New Orleans, USA.

9. Andrews CN, Storr M. The pathophysiology of chronic constipation. Can J Gastroenterol. 2011;25 Suppl B:16b-21b. (PubMed)

10. Gershon MD, Tack J. The Serotonin Signaling System: From Basic Understanding To Drug Development for Functional GI Disorders. Gastroenterology. 2007;132(1):397-414. (PubMed)

11. Tack J, Müller-Lissner S. Treatment of chronic constipation: current pharmacologic approaches and future directions. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2009;7(5):502-8; quiz 496. (PubMed)

12. Longstreth GF, et al. Functional bowel disorders. Gastroenterology. 2006;130(5):1480-91. (PubMed)

13. Mayo Clinic. Constipation. Updated 29 June 2019. (Source) Accessed 25th May 2020.

14. Grundy D, et al. Fundamentals of neurogastroenterology: basic science. Gastroenterology. 2006;130(5):1391-411. (PubMed)

15. Alander M, et al. Effect of galacto-oligosaccharide supplementation on human faecal microflora and on survival and persistence of Bifidobacterium lactis Bb-12 in the gastrointestinal tract. International Dairy Journal. 2001;11(10):817-25. (Source)

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