Effect of changing transit time on colonic microbial metabolism in man

Gut. 1987 May;28(5):601-9. doi: 10.1136/gut.28.5.601.


An investigation was made of the effect of changing mean transit time (MTT) by administration of drugs which affect colonic motility on faecal microbial mass in man. Senokot was used to accelerate and codeine and/or loperamide to prolong transit in subjects maintained on a constant high fibre diet. Doses of Senokot or codeine/loperamide were adjusted to halve or double transit time measured during a three week control period on diet alone. Stools were collected throughout and analysed for bacterial mass by a gravimetric procedure. Transit was measured by a continuous marker method. Senokot decreased mean transit time from 63.9 to 25.0 hours (n = 6), with increased stool weight from 148 to 285 g/day. Bacterial mass increased in all subjects from a mean of 16.5 to 20.3 g/day (dry weight) (p less than 0.025). Codeine/loperamide increased mean transit time from 47.1 to 87.6 hours (n = 5), with decreased stool weight from 182 to 119 g/day. Bacterial mass decreased in all but one subject from a mean of 18.9 to 16.1 g/day (NS). There was a significant correlation between transit time and bacterial mass in all three periods (r = 0.77, p less than 0.001). Changes in transit time are shown to alter microbial growth in the human colon and result in altered stool output, on a constant diet. Factors which affect transit may be as important as diet in determining large bowel function and hence susceptibility to disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthraquinones / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Cathartics / pharmacology
  • Codeine / pharmacology
  • Colon / microbiology*
  • Colon / physiology
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Feces / analysis
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Motility* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Lofepramine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Senna Extract
  • Sennosides
  • Time Factors


  • Anthraquinones
  • Cathartics
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Sennosides
  • Senna Extract
  • Lofepramine
  • Codeine