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Hope for chronic constipation sufferers thanks to vibrating pill that can ‘double the number of weekly bowel movements’

  • The gadget, called Vibrant and about the size of a fish-oil supplement, taking prometrium during first trimester sends out pulses that, the designers claim, stimulate natural movements in the gut
  • Capsule is still under development by its Israeli manufacturer
  • Latest data from its largest trial so far, involving over 300 patients, suggests it can double the number of weekly bowel movements in constipation sufferers
  • Constipation affects about six million people in the UK; three-quarters of sufferers are women and the prevalence increases with age

Relief from chronic constipation could soon come from an easy-to-swallow vibrating capsule.

The gadget, called Vibrant and about the size of a fish-oil supplement, sends out pulses that, the designers claim, stimulate natural movements in the gut.

While Vibrant is still under development by its Israeli manufacturer, the latest data from its largest trial so far, involving more than 300 patients, suggests it can double the number of weekly bowel movements in constipation sufferers.

Constipation affects about six million people in the UK – three-quarters of sufferers are women and the prevalence increases with age. Common causes include not eating enough fibre, found in fruit and vegetables, or drinking enough water. Lack of exercise, stress and a side effect of some medications can also be to blame.

Relief from chronic constipation could soon come from an easy-to-swallow vibrating capsule. The gadget, called Vibrant and about the size of a fish-oil supplement, sends out pulses that, the designers claim, stimulate natural movements in the gut

Treatment usually involves laxatives – drugs which work either by stimulating muscles in the gut or increasing the amount of water in the bowel to soften stools and aid the digestive process. However, these are not designed for long-term use.

Fibre supplements, which add bulk to stools and make them easier to pass, are also recommended by doctors, but these can cause pain from excess gas and bloating.

Dr Satish Rao, professor of medicine at Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, who led the Vibrant trial and presented the results at the American College of Gastroenterology conference, said: ‘The pill is designed to induce local contractions of the colon to mimic what happens normally.’

Before the Vibrant capsule is swallowed, it is inserted into a base unit which programs it to activate at a set time the following day.

Constipation affects about six million people in the UK – three-quarters of sufferers are women and the prevalence increases with age

In the study it was instructed to run for two cycles – one starting at 6am and another at noon. A cycle lasts two hours, during which the capsule vibrates for three seconds followed by 16 seconds of rest.

The capsule is tracked in the patient’s body via a smartphone app, which records its progress and the number of bowel movements, among other things. Each one lasts a day and is later passed out naturally.

The trial results showed that the treatment lessened the amount participants had to strain and improved stool consistency. Some users said they could feel the capsule’s vibrations during the cycles, but no side effects were reported.

Dr Rao added: ‘The lack of side effects is really a huge plus. I think it will benefit people with both occasional or chronic constipation.’

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