Dietary fiber supplementation for fecal incontinence: A randomized clinical trial

Donna Z. Bliss, Kay Savik, Hans-Joachim G Jung, Robin Whitebird, Ann Lowry, Xiaoyan Sheng

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73 Scopus citations


Dietary fiber supplements are used to manage fecal incontinence (FI), but little is known about the fiber type to recommend or the level of effectiveness of such supplements, which appears related to the fermentability of the fiber. The aim of this single-blind, randomized controlled trial was to compare the effects of three dietary fiber supplements (carboxymethylcellulose [CMC], gum arabic [GA], or psyllium) with differing levels of fermentability to a placebo in community-living individuals incontinent of loose/liquid feces. The primary outcome was FI frequency; secondary outcomes included FI amount and consistency, supplement intolerance, and quality of life (QoL). Possible mechanisms underlying supplement effects were also examined. After a 14-day baseline, 189 subjects consumed a placebo or 16g total fiber/day of one of the fiber supplements for 32 days. FI frequency significantly decreased after psyllium supplementation versus placebo, in both intent-to-treat and per-protocol mixed model analyses. CMC increased FI frequency. In intent-to-treat analysis, the number of FI episodes/week after supplementation was estimated to be 5.5 for Placebo, 2.5 for Psyllium, 4.3 for GA, and 6.2 for CMC. Only psyllium consumption resulted in a gel in feces. Supplement intolerance was low. QoL scores did not differ among groups. Patients with FI may experience a reduction in FI frequency after psyllium supplementation, and decreased FI frequency has been shown to be an important personal goal of treatment for patients with FI. Formation of a gel in feces appears to be a mechanism by which residual psyllium improved FI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-378
Number of pages12
JournalResearch in Nursing and Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • Bowel
  • Dietary fiber
  • Fecal incontinence
  • Fiber supplement
  • Incontinence
  • Randomized clinical trial


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