Introduction: Constipation is a common problem in the elderly population, especially in geriatric wards. Laxatives are the most preferred solution but current studies link constipation and laxative use to weight-loss and malnutrition in nursing homes. Dietary fibers also affect stool weight and transit time. So, oat-bran effectiveness in reducing the need for bowel medication and weight-loss for geriatric care patients was examined in a geriatric hospital.
Aim: To determine whether the addition of oat-bran to common oral diet can reduce the use of laxatives and improve the wellbeing and bodyweight of the inhabitants of a long-term-care facility.
Methods: The study was designed as a controlled blind intervention trial among 30 frail inhabitants of a geriatric hospital aged 57-100 years with laxative use. Including criteria were: oral food intake and laxatives as therapy and excluding criteria were: parenteral and enteral feeding, surgeries in the gastro- intestinal tract, drugs that shorten or lengthen the passage through the gut, risk of aspiration, swallowing troubles. An intervention and a control group were formed. 15 of them received 7-8 g oat-bran/d for 12 weeks (fiber group) mixed up in the daily common diet of the ward and 15 served as control (control group).
Data collection: Bodyweight was taken at baseline, after 6 weeks and at the end of the supplementation. Data on laxative use, stool frequency and the eating habits of the elderly were recorded.
Results: Laxatives were successfully discontinued by 59% (p < 0.001) in the fiber-group; in the control-group there was an increase of 8% (p=0.218). Bodyweight remained constant in the fiber-group and decreased in the control-group (p=0.002). The oat-fiber supplementation in the introduced form was well tolerated.
Conclusions: Use of oat-fiber allowed discontinuation of laxatives by 59% while improving body-weight and wellbeing of the seniors. Fiber supplementation is a safe and convenient alternative to laxatives in a geriatric hospital.