Zaps of electricity could help constipated people go to the toilet by sending waves through the body to spur the bowels into action, a study has found.
Wearing patches to send electric signals into the digestive system can stimulate nerves which trigger the body’s natural bowel movements.
Up to 15 per cent of people are thought to suffer with the common condition, which means they don’t empty their bowels more than three times a week.
In a study, people using the electric therapy were three times more likely to have gone to the toilet twice per week or more.
And even using the device for six weeks helped patients for at least three months afterwards and reduced the amount of laxatives they took.
Sending electric waves from the front to back of the body could stimulate nerves in the digestive system and trigger bowel movements in constipated people, according to researchers at Monash University in Melbourne
Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, tested the device on a group of 33 women.
All the women were aged between 18 and 75 years old and had chronic constipation.
They used the stimulation device for an hour a day by placing two electrodes on their abdomen and two on their back, the New Scientist reported.
The patches send medium-strength electric currents through the body, stimulating nerve cells in the digestive system as they meet in the middle.
VIBRATING PILL TO TACKLE CONSTIPATION
A clinical trial by a hospital in Tel Aviv in Israel revealed a vibrating pill could help relieve people’s constipation.
The capsule, which houses a small engine, is programmed to begin vibrating six to eight hours after being swallowed.
In the 2014 study, experts said the multivitamin-sized pill, which vibrates as it moves through the digestive tract, showed promise as a treatment for constipation.
The capsule was found to nearly double the number of weekly bowel movements in patients suffering from chronic constipation.
‘Despite the widespread use of medication to treat constipation, nearly 50 per cent of patients are unsatisfied with the treatment either because of side effects, safety concerns about long-term use, or the fact that it simply doesn’t work,’ said study author Dr Yishai Ron, from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.
After taking the capsule, patients reported an increase in spontaneous bowel movements from two to four times per week.
They also had a decrease in constipation symptoms, including reduced difficulty in passing stools and incomplete evacuation.
Activated nerve cells then trigger the gut’s process for moving out waste material, encouraging people to go to the toilet.
Some 58 per cent of the women who used the therapy were able to have two or more ‘spontaneous’ bowel movements per week.
This compared to just 18 per cent in the group in which women used a fake treatment involving electric currents which did not meet in the middle or stimulate nerves.
And there were no unpleasant side effects – though some of the women found the hour-a-day therapy a time-consuming thing to do.
Study author Judith Moore said: ‘It just feels like a mild tingly, buzzing sensation.’
The group who had the effective treatment said they were less likely to need laxatives and had a better quality of life for months after the electric therapy.
Mrs Moore said her team hope to carry out trials on bigger groups of people to test the devices in more detail.
Constipation is a common problem and can usually be cleared up by diet or lifestyle changes, but it can become a longer-lasting issue if the cause is not tackled.
Potential causes include not getting enough fibre from fruit and vegetables, not drinking enough fluids, not exercising, stress or depression, or side effects from certain medications.
The Monash University findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Gastroenterological Society of Australia.