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A Journal on Gastroenterology, Nutrition and Dietetics

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Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica 2013 June;59(2):217-30

language: English

Fiber and macrogol in the therapy of chronic constipation

Stanghellini V., Bellacosa L., Cogliandro R.

Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences - DIMEC, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy


Chronic constipation is a common condition in the general population. Although the majority of affected individuals do not seek medical consultation and search for remedies for their condition in the pharmacy or herbal shops, the actual health burden caused by this condition is extremely high. Many laxatives are available, but patients are often dissatisfied with the therapies adopted, whether prescribed by a doctor or self prescribed, and this leads to further social and health burdens. All of the available guidelines promote initiating the therapy of any type of constipation by ensuring an adequate intake of dietary fiber and water. However, high amounts of insoluble vegetable fiber such as those normally contained in fruits and vegetables, can lead to a further worsening of the digestive symptoms typical of chronic constipation, such as bloating and distension and pain. Better results can be obtained with soluble fibers, such as psyllium. Among the various available laxatives, polyethylene glycol (PEG), or macrogol, is the product which has been most studied and has produced the best results with the least number of side effects. This is an inert not absorbable molecule that, diluted in water, forms an isotonic solution that prevents part of the water from being absorbed, thus increasing the volume of the intestinal contents, reducing the consistency and facilitating transport and evacuation. The combination of psyllium and PEG could combine the advantages of fiber and isotonic solutions and represent an important therapeutic option for patients suffering from chronic constipation.

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