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Keywords:

  • constipation;
  • fibre;
  • geriatric patients;
  • dietary intervention

Background and Aims:  Constipation is a common problem in geriatric wards and in the elderly population. Although high-fibre diets can help relieve constipation non-pharmacologically in many patients, traditional laxatives still remain the standard treatment. A fibre supplement in the form of raw bran is not always well tolerated. We wanted to study the effects of a daily consumption of a fruit- and fibre-rich porridge on stool frequency, perceived well-being and the costs for laxatives, when compared with traditional treatment with laxatives, in geriatric patients.

Methods:  Twenty patients in secondary geriatric wards (hospital rehabilitation wards) were randomized into an intervention group (porridge group) and a control group (standard diet without porridge) for a 1-week run-in and 2-week study, with registration of clinical data, e.g. medical treatment, laxative consumption, stool frequency and perceived well-being.

Results:  The patients in the porridge group had a daily defaecation without laxatives on average 76% of the time (10.7/14 days) compared with 23% of the time (3.3/14 days) in the non-porridge group (p = 0.003). The discomfort was less in the porridge group (2.5 vs. 6.5 on a 10-degree visual analogue scale, p = 0.008) when compared with the control group. The cost for laxatives was 93% lower in the intervention group (2.5€ vs. 37.5€) for the 2-week study.

Conclusions:  A fibre-rich porridge was effective, well liked and tolerated and reduced the need for laxatives in geriatric patients. We conclude that a daily fibre-rich meal ought to be included in the treatment strategies of constipation in hospital wards.