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How Resistant Maltodextrin (a Prebiotic Fiber) Promotes Bowel Regularity

If you’re struggling to remember when you last emptied your bowels, and you vaguely recall having to strain before you managed to pass out something (which was likely lumpy, dry, and hard), you may be dealing with constipation.

While constipation isn’t typically life-threatening, it’s undeniably uncomfortable.

Averaging just one or two bowel movements a week can make you feel bloated, crampy, and sluggish. All that straining may also cause several painful complications, including anal fissures [1] and rectal prolapse [2].

Fortunately, resistant maltodextrin, a type of prebiotic fiber, can help “regularize” the frequency of your bowel movements and make those stools easier to pass. Continue reading to find out how.

What is constipation?

Constipation is a condition in which an individual has uncomfortable or infrequent bowel movements. Symptoms include:

  • Having fewer than three bowel movements per week (note: most gastroenterologists consider anywhere between 3 to 21 movements a week “normal”)
  • Straining or lumpy, hard stools for more than 25% of defecation attempts
  • Experiencing a feeling of incomplete elimination after a bowel movement

The Bristol stool chart [4] is a useful tool to evaluate your stools’ appearance and determine whether you’re constipated.

Bristol Stool Chart

Under normal circumstances, if you’re notconstipated, your stools should resemble types 3 and 4 — with a sausage-like shape, either with cracks on the surface or a smooth and soft surface.

On the flip side, if you’re constipated, your stools will look like types 1 and 2: Hard, dry, and lumpy [4].

What causes constipation?

In general, constipation can occur when the movement and contractions of the digestive tract are too slow, resulting in more water absorption from the stools by the large intestine.

When the stools reach the colon, they become hard and dry, requiring greater effort to pass out or may even result in blockage. In severe cases, medical interventions will be necessary to remove the stools and clear the blockage.

3 ways resistant maltodextrin encourages easy-to-pass stools

To understand how resistant maltodextrin, a prebiotic fiber, keeps constipation away, you'll first need to know what it is, so let's start there.

Prebiotic fiber (also known simply as "prebiotics") is an indigestible carbohydrate found in many fruits and vegetables, particularly those that contain complex carbohydrates, such as resistant maltodextrin [5].

#1: Water-drawing effect

The most immediate mechanism through which resistant maltodextrin helps prevent constipation is through its high water-drawing effect in the colon. This draws water from the surrounding membrane to the stools, which softens the stools and facilitates their movement down the large intestine and out of the digestive tract [6].

This is especially useful for people suffering from severe forms of constipation with very dry and hardened stools. The water-drawing effect of resistant maltodextrin enables it to draw water to the stools, softening them and making them easier to be passed out instead of adding bulk which may worsen constipation.

#2: Produces short-chain fatty acids

In addition to its water-drawing effect, resistant maltodextrin also undergoes a process known as fermentation when it resists digestion by the body’s enzymes and reaches the colon.

Fermentation occurs when the gut microbiota feeds on prebiotic fibers, producing an array of beneficial metabolites. One of the many metabolites is short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) [7].

SCFAs are energy sources for cells in the surrounding tissues of the colon.

They can stimulate the large intestine and increase peristaltic contractions [8], ensuring that waste products can transit through the digestive tract and out of the body smoothly.

The remaining waste products from the fermentation process also add bulk to the stools, which makes them easier to be passed out.

#3: Feeds your good gut bacteria and promotes healthy gut microbiota

Finally, while your body can't break down prebiotic fibers into simple sugars for energy, they area food source for the good gut bacteria in your small intestine and colon.

Prebiotic fibers feed and nourish your good gut bacteria, which enhances the healthy balance of your gut microbiota.

The gut microbiota consists of different types of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi [9]. The number of bacterial cells is estimated to outnumber our human cells by about 10 times.

Everyone is born with a unique set of innate (inborn, natural) gut microbiota. The composition and amount then get altered throughout the lifespan due to lifestyle, environmental, and dietary factors [10]. The use of medications such as antibiotics can also impact your gut microbiota.

What a healthy gut microbiota looks like can differ from person to person.

In general, however, scientists agree that a healthy gut maintains a balance between good gut bacteria and bad gut bacteria [11].

And prebiotic fibers help encourage a happy, healthy gut by feeding and nourishing your good gut bacteria — creating an environment where beneficial bacteria (such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium) can flourish and crowd out unwanted and harmful bacteria.

Research [12] shows maintaining a healthy gut microbiome could prevent constipation.

Bottom line

To promote bowel irregularity, focus on taking at least 3-5 grams of prebiotic fiber daily.


[1] Jahnny, B., & Ashurst, J. V. (2022). Anal Fissures. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

[2] Goldstein, S. D., & Maxwell, P. J. (2011). Rectal Prolapse. Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery, 24(1), 39–45.

[3] Bristol Stool scale: Stool types and what they mean. (2021, August 20).

[4] Constipation: Causes, symptoms, treatments, and more. (2019, November 13).

[5] Davani-Davari, D., Negahdaripour, M., Karimzadeh, I., Seifan, M., Mohkam, M., Masoumi, S. J., Berenjian, A., & Ghasemi, Y. (2019). Prebiotics: Definition, Types, Sources, Mechanisms, and Clinical Applications. Foods, 8(3), 92.

[6] Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417–1435.

[7] Araújo, M. M., & Botelho, P. B. (2022). Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics in chronic constipation: Outstanding aspects to be considered for the current evidence. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9, 935830.

[8] Grider, J. R., & Piland, B. E. (2007). The peristaltic reflex induced by short-chain fatty acids is mediated by sequential release of 5-HT and neuronal CGRP but not BDNF. American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 292(1), G429–G437.

[9] Hills, R. D., Pontefract, B. A., Mishcon, H. R., Black, C. A., Sutton, S. C., & Theberge, C. R. (2019). Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients, 11(7), 1613.

[10] Thursby, E., & Juge, N. (2017). Introduction to the human gut microbiota. Biochemical Journal, 474(11), 1823–1836.

[11] Rinninella, E., Cintoni, M., Raoul, P., Lopetuso, L. R., Scaldaferri, F., Pulcini, G., Miggiano, G. A. D., Gasbarrini, A., & Mele, M. C. (2019). Food Components and Dietary Habits: Keys for a Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition. Nutrients, 11(10), 2393.

[12] Ohkusa, T., Koido, S., Nishikawa, Y., & Sato, N. (2019). Gut Microbiota and Chronic Constipation: A Review and Update. Frontiers in Medicine, 6, 19.

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