Plus, a list of probiotic-rich foods to incorporate into your diet.

You know what really stinks? A crappy digestive system—pooping problems can really make you feel down in the dumps. (Sorry).

If you’ve struggled with IBS or constipation, you may have wondered if probiotics are the key to a healthy gut. Here’s what you need to know about probiotics and their relationship to poop:

What Are Probiotics—and What Do They Do?

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Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

Probiotics are live bacteria that can positively affect your digestive system.

When we think of bacteria, we often think of germs that can make you sick. Your body (especially your gut) is chock-full of bacteria—and most of it is completely harmless.

In fact, having the right gut bacteria in appropriate amounts is linked to all sorts of health benefits.

People take probiotic supplements or consume probiotic-rich foods (more on that later) to try to achieve a healthy balance of helpful gut bacteria.

Probiotic Foods

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Credit: Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

Kseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

Probiotics are found in foods that have been preserved through fermentation. Some fermented, probiotic-rich foods and drinks you may be familiar with are:

The probiotics in these foods shouldn’t be confused with prebiotics, which are dietary fibers that feed the good bacteria that’s already in your gut.

Probiotic Benefits

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Credit: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Probiotic supplements are most often taken in response to digestive issues. People who take probiotics may be trying to prevent or treat diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, or stomach pain.

These aren’t the only purported benefits of probiotics, though. Many experts believe a balanced gut can treat skin problems, strengthen your immune system, and prevent chronic diseases. ‘

Do They Make You Poop?

Probiotics can, in fact, make you poop—especially if you’re suffering from constipation caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It’s important to understand that probiotics are not laxatives. Their purpose is not to stimulate your bowels.

Instead, they may regulate your bowel movements by enhancing your gut microbiome, or the collection of good bacteria in your digestive tract. You need to consume probiotics regularly to see results.

A 2016 study of 150 people with IBS found that probiotic supplements regulated bowel movements and improved stool consistency. And that wasn’t just a fluke—research has shown that probiotics can ease IBS symptoms time and time again.

Best Probiotics for Constipation

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All probiotic strains are not created equal.

Be wary of supplements that don’t list specific probiotic strains among their ingredients. Lactobacillus, which is found in many fermented foods, is one of the most common and extensively studied strains. It’s used to treat digestive problems like diarrhea and constipation.

According to Healthline, these probiotic strains have been shown to improve bowel regularity and stool consistency:

  • Bifidobacterium lactis
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Streptococcus thermophilus
  • Lactobacillus reuteri
  • Bifidobacterium longum