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Keywords:

  • colon;
  • oestradiol;
  • gastrointestinal;
  • menopause;
  • progesterone;
  • transit;
  • women

Abstract  Females are disproportionately affected by constipation, which is often aggravated during pregnancy. Bowel function also changes during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. The aim was to compare the effects of acute administration of female sex steroids on gastric emptying, small bowel transit and colonic transit in healthy postmenopausal subjects. A second aim was to determine whether withdrawal of the hormones was associated with a change in transit. Forty-nine postmenopausal females were randomized to receive for 7 days 400 mg day−1 micronized progesterone, 0.2 mg day−1 oestradiol, combination of the two, or placebo. Treatment groups were balanced on age. Participants underwent whole gut transit measurement by scintigraphy using a 99m-labeled technetium-egg meal and 111-labeled indium-charcoal via a delayed-release capsule. Transit measurement was repeated after withdrawal of the study medications. The primary endpoints were ascending colon (AC) emptying half-life time (t1/2) and colonic geometric centre (GC) at 24 h. Secondary analysis variables were GC at 4 and 48 h, gastric emptying t1/2 and colonic filling at 6 h. There was a significant overall effect of progesterone on colonic transit with shorter AC emptying t1/2 and significantly greater colonic GC at 48 h. No transit endpoints were altered by oestradiol or combined hormonal treatment relative to placebo. Oestradiol and progesterone resulted in looser stool consistency. Withdrawal of the hormone supplement was not associated with significant alteration in transit. Micronized progesterone does not retard colonic transit in postmenopausal females.