Systematic review: probiotics for functional constipation in children

Eur J Pediatr. 2017 Sep;176(9):1155-1162. doi: 10.1007/s00431-017-2972-2. Epub 2017 Aug 1.


We updated our 2010 systematic review on the efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of constipation in children. The MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane Library databases; clinical trial registries; and reference lists of included studies were searched to February 2017 for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) performed in children, with no language restriction. The primary outcome measure was treatment success, as defined by the investigators. We included seven RCTs with a total of 515 participants. Included trials were heterogeneous with respect to study population, probiotic strains, dosages, study duration, and follow-up. Pooled results of two RCTs showed no significant difference between the Lactobacillus rhamnosus casei Lcr35 and placebo groups with respect to treatment success. Other probiotics were studied in single trials only. There was no significant difference between the probiotic and control groups with respect to treatment success. While some probiotic strains showed some effects on defecation frequency, none of the probiotics had beneficial effects on frequency of fecal incontinence or frequency of abdominal pain. Adverse events were rare and not serious.

Conclusion: Limited evidence does not support the use of any of currently evaluated probiotics in the treatment of functional constipation in children. What is Known: • Conventional treatment for functional constipation in children does not always provide satisfying improvement. • Probiotics have been suggested as potential treatment modalities for this condition. What is New: • Probiotics are ineffective for the management of functional constipation in children in terms of treatment success, frequency of fecal incontinence, and frequency of abdominal pain.

Keywords: Functional gastrointestinal disorders; Microbiota; Probiotics; RCT.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Abdominal Pain / therapy
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Constipation / therapy*
  • Fecal Incontinence / etiology
  • Fecal Incontinence / therapy
  • Humans
  • Lactobacillus
  • Probiotics / administration & dosage*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome