Findings of the trial which was conducted in Japanese young children, were published in the scientific journal Nutrients.
The probiotic used for the trial is lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 and was supplied by Swedish probiotic firm BioGaia.
The researchers recruited the subjects from five paediatric outpatient clinics.
Sixty patients between the age of six months old and six years old and diagnosed with functional constipation were randomised into three groups.
The first group received the probiotic and lactose hydrate as a placebo of magnesium oxide, the second group received the probiotic and magnesium oxide, and the last group received a placebo of the probiotic and magnesium oxide.
Throughout the four-week study, the probiotic, which came in the form of an oil suspension, was administered in five drops 30 minutes after feeding twice a day.
Whereas magnesium oxide was administered at 30mg/kg of body weight each day.
Using a diary, the subjects’ defecation frequency and stool consistency were recorded.
All three groups showed a significant increase in the frequency of bowel movements during the second and fourth week when compared with the baseline condition.
However, only the combination of the probiotic and magnesium oxide showed a significant increase in both the defecation frequency and a decrease in stool consistency when compared to the baseline.
For instance, the mean defecation per week increased from 1.35 to 1.71 in subjects which consumed the probiotic and magnesium oxide, while this figure only grew from 1.51 to 1.68 in the group that received the probiotic and lactose hydrate.
Lastly, for the group which received probiotic and magnesium oxide placebo, this figure grew from 0.82 to 1.50.
‘We postulated that magnesium oxide would be effective in improving the stool consistency and that L. reuteri DSM17938 would increase the defecation frequency.
‘Our results showed that both had an effect on the defecation frequency and magnesium oxide improved stool consistency,’ the researchers said.
The researchers said that further studies are needed to confirm the most efficacious dosage and the length of treatment.
In the current trial, the amount of the probiotic L. reuteri DSM 17938 administered was twice as much as the recommendation. A higher dosage than recommended was tested in this trial due to the safety profile of the probiotic.
On the other hand, the trial showed that there were concomitant changes in the gut microbiome.
For example, the higher the defecation frequency, the lower the amount of the Clostridiales-belonging bacteria in the subjects’ gut microbiome.
Magnesium oxide also significantly suppressed the presence of the genus Dialister.
Building on the current observation, the researchers said there was a need to further find out the relationship between probiotic treatment and its effects on the gut microbiome.
As the study did not assess lifestyle factors, including the subjects’ diet, water consumption, and exercise frequency, they also pointed out that further studies on these aspects were required.
‘Although the evidence is currently insufficient to support a general recommendation concerning the use of probiotics to treat functional childhood constipation, this therapeutic option is generally considered safe,’ the researchers concluded.
Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 and Magnesium Oxide in Children with Functional Chronic Constipation: A Double-Blind and Randomized Clinical Trial
Authors: Megumi Kubota, et al