Colonic content: effect of diet, meals, and defecation

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Abstract

Background:

The metabolic activity of colonic microbiota is influenced by diet; however, the relationship between metabolism and colonic content is not known. Our aim was to determine the effect of meals, defecation, and diet on colonic content.

Methods:

In 10 healthy subjects, two abdominal MRI scans were acquired during fasting, 1 week apart, and after 3 days on low- and high-residue diets, respectively. With each diet, daily fecal output and the number of daytime anal gas evacuations were measured. On the first study day, a second scan was acquired 4 hours after a test meal (n=6) or after 4 hours with nil ingestion (n=4). On the second study day, a scan was also acquired after a spontaneous bowel movement.

Results:

On the low-residue diet, daily fecal volume averaged 145 ± 15 mL; subjects passed 10.6 ± 1.6 daytime anal gas evacuations and, by the third day, non-gaseous colonic content was 479 ± 36 mL. The high-residue diet increased the three parameters to 16.5 ± 2.9 anal gas evacuations, 223 ± 19 mL fecal output, and 616 ± 55 mL non-gaseous colonic content (P<.05 vs low-residue diet for all). On the low-residue diet, non-gaseous content in the right colon had increased by 41 ± 11 mL, 4 hours after the test meal, whereas no significant change was observed after 4-hour fast (−15 ± 8 mL; P=.006 vs fed). Defecation significantly reduced the non-gaseous content in distal colonic segments.

Conclusion & Inferences:

Colonic content exhibits physiologic variations with an approximate 1/3 daily turnover produced by meals and defecation, superimposed over diet-related day-to-day variations.

Ingestion of unabsorbable residues and defecation produce profound changes in colonic content. The rapid turnover of colonic biomass (about 1/3 daily) indicates a high adaptation potential of microbiota to the intraluminal environment.

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