Supplementation with the probiotic Lactobacillus casei Shirota in fermented milk improved bowel habits in elderly nursing home residents, a study epublished in February 2015 reports. Data indicate that older individuals are at risk for changes in bowel habits, with 30% to 40% of adults older than 65 years citing constipation as a problem and 74% of nursing home residents using laxatives.

The subjects were 135 frail elderly individuals living in a nursing home. Staff recorded bowel movements and stool quality for three weeks before the participants started receiving fermented milk. After the three weeks, the subjects received a fermented milk drink containing minimally 6.5×109 colony forming units of Lactobacillus casei Shirota daily for six weeks. Staff continued to record bowel movements and stool quality. Forty-four of the subjects between 74-99 years of age were compliant and included in the analysis.

Intake of the fermented milk product with the probiotic Lactobacillus casei Shirota resulted in a significant increase in the percentage of ideal stools per week and decreased the number of constipation stool types and diarrhea stools per week compared to the numbers during the initial three-week evaluation. The researchers did not find any change in laxative use or adverse events with the probiotic supplementation.

The researchers concluded, “Our results suggest that a fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei Shirota significantly improves the bowel habits of frail elderly residents in a nursing home. These promising results should be further substantiated by a confirmatory study.”

Reference: van den Nieuwboer M, et al. Benef Microbes. 2015 Feb 17:1-8.