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Fruit and fibre (Pajala porridge) in the prevention of constipation


  • Aase Wisten MD (Consultant in Geriatrics and Rehabilitation),

    1. Section of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Department of Internal Medicine, Sunderby Hospital, Luleå, Sweden
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  • Torbjörn Messner MD, PhD (Associate Professor in Medicine)

    1. Department of Internal Medicine, Kiruna District Hospital, Kiruna, Sweden
    2. Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University Hospital, Umeå, Sweden
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Dr Aase Wisten, Section of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Department of Internal Medicine, Sunderby hospital, SE-971 80 Luleå, Sweden.
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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.