Effects of guar gum, ispaghula and microcrystalline cellulose on abdominal symptoms, gastric emptying, orocaecal transit time and gas production in healthy volunteers

Dig Liver Dis. 2002 Sep;34 Suppl 2:S129-33. doi: 10.1016/s1590-8658(02)80180-3.


Background: Dietary fibres are carbohydrates that resist hydrolysis by human intestinal enzymes but are fermented by colonic microflora. Soluble dietary fibres are fermented by anaerobic bacteria with production of gases, short chain fatty acids and other metabolic products believed to cause symptoms such as bloating, abdominal distension, flatulence. Insoluble fibres are only partially fermented, serving almost exclusively as bulking agents that result in shorter transit time and increased faecal mass.

Aims: To evaluate effect of a supplementation of a single 5 g dose of dietary fibre to a solid meal on gastric emptying, orocaecal transit time, gas production and symptom genesis, in healthy volunteers. Three different dietary fibres were tested, two soluble (guar gum and ispaghula] and one insoluble (microcrystalline cellulose).

Patients and methods: After a 24-hour low fibre diet, 10 healthy subjects had a standard meal consisting of white bread and one 70 g egg the yolk of which was mixed with 100 mg of 13C octanoic acid and fried. Breath samples were collected for 13CO2 measurements with a mass spectrophotometer and excretion curve (Tlag, T1/2) evaluation. Further breath samples were collected and analysed with a gas chromatograph for the evaluation of H2 and CH4 production and orocaecal transit time. Each evaluation was repeated adding to standard meal, diluted in 300 ml tap water, respectively: a single 5 g dose of microcrystalline cellulose, guar gum or ispaghula. Subjects were asked to report all symptoms experienced from time of meal ingestion over 24 hours, evaluating the intensity.

Results: Dietary fibres did not significantly change gastric emptying (Tlag, T1/2) and orocaecal transit time of standard meal. Subjects experienced more symptoms when meals were supplemented with guar gum (p=0.009 vs standard meal) and ispaghula (p=0.048 vs standard meal). There was a poor, but significant, correlation between gas production and symptoms (r=0. 38, p=0. 01).

Conclusions: Addition of different dietary fibres to a solid meal did not influence gastric emptying and orocaecal transit time. Microcrystalline cellulose caused fewer symptoms than guar gum and ispaghula probably due to the insoluble nature and the dimensions of the particles of this micronised cellulose.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cellulose / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Fiber / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Galactans*
  • Gases
  • Gastric Emptying / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Transit / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mannans*
  • Plant Gums
  • Psyllium / pharmacology*


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Galactans
  • Gases
  • Mannans
  • Plant Gums
  • Psyllium
  • Cellulose
  • guar gum