Soluble fiber reduces the incidence of diarrhea in septic patients receiving total enteral nutrition: a prospective, double-blind, randomized, and controlled trial

Clin Nutr. 2001 Aug;20(4):301-5. doi: 10.1054/clnu.2001.0399.


Background and aims: Attempts to control enteral nutrition associated diarrhea in the critically ill tube-fed patient by implementing feeding formulas enriched with fiber were mostly unsuccessful. Recently, it was shown that enteral feeding containing soluble partially hydrolyzed guar decreased the incidence of diarrhea in a cohort of non-critically ill medicosurgical patients. We investigated whether this type of enteral feed could also influence stool production in patients with severe sepsis, a population at risk for developing diarrhea.

Methods: The study was double-blind. Patients with severe sepsis and septic shock were consecutively enrolled and at random received either an enteral formula supplemented with 22 g/l partially hydrolyzed guar or an isocaloric isonitrogenous control feed without fiber. All patients were mechanically ventilated and treated with catecholamines and antibiotics. Enteral feeding was provided through a nasogastric tube for a minimum of 6 days. A semiquantitative score based on stool volume and consistency was used for daily assessment of diarrhea.

Results: 25 patients fulfilled the criteria for data analysis. Soluble fiber was administered in 13 of them. The two groups were well-matched for gender, age, disease severity, cause of sepsis, laboratory parameters, total feeding days and time to reach nutritional goals. The mean frequency of diarrhea days was significantly lower in patients receiving fiber than in those on standard alimentation (8.8+/-10.0 % vs 32.0+/-15.3 %; P=0.001). The whole group of fiber-fed patients had less days with diarrhea per total feeding days (16/148 days (10.8%) vs 46/146 days (31.5%); P<0.001) and a lower mean diarrhea score (4.8+/-6.4 vs 9.4+/-10.2; P<0.001). The type of enteral diet did not influence sepsis-related mortality and duration of stay in the intensive care unit.

Conclusion: Total enteral nutrition supplemented with soluble fiber is beneficial in reducing the incidence of diarrhea in tube-fed full-resuscitated and mechanically ventilated septic patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Diarrhea / etiology
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Enteral Nutrition / adverse effects
  • Enteral Nutrition / methods*
  • Female
  • Galactans
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mannans
  • Plant Gums
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sepsis / complications
  • Sepsis / therapy*
  • Shock, Septic / complications
  • Shock, Septic / therapy*
  • Solubility


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Galactans
  • Mannans
  • Plant Gums
  • guar gum