Good news for constipation sufferers: Mayo Clinic researchers are working on a drug that offers laxative effects by taking advantage of a substance naturally found in your digestive system -- bile acids.
The drug, being called A3309 for now, has shown success in phases I and II of testing and will soon enter phase III of development, according to a May 10, 2011, Mayo Clinic media release.
Bile acids are created in the liver during digestion and are usually recycled back into the lower small intestine. The experimental drug works to inhibit absorption into the small intestine and instead direct the bile acids into the colon, where they are known to stimulate bowel movements. Considered a natural laxative, bile acids soften stool and speed up how fast stool moves through the colon.
"The new medication is a novel approach which allows the delivery to the colon of normal substances produced by the patient's own liver to induce a laxative effect," said Dr. Michael Camilleri, a gastroenterologist, Mayo professor and lead author of the study.
Constipation affects almost 30 million Americans and costs more than $1 billion annually to evaluate and treat, the media release noted.
In the recent phase II study of A3309, the drug was given for two weeks to patients with constipation and then analyzed against patients who had received a placebo. Those receiving the drug reported significantly less straining during bowel movements along with softer stool. Mayo researchers did notice a side effect of abdominal discomfort, which usually went away after a bowel movement.
Phase III studies will involve more patients and a longer stretch of treatment, Mayo researchers said.
Constipation has a number of causes, including an imbalanced diet, stress, drug interactions and dehydration. Besides over-the-counter medications, those with constipation often seek a more natural solution. In recent years, medical practitioners have suggested such things as ground flaxseed, fish oil, ground hemp, magnesium and probiotic capsules. Sometimes, though, it’s as easy as drinking more water or adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.