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Gut. 1996 Jun; 38(6): 870–877.
PMCID: PMC1383195

Relations between transit time, fermentation products, and hydrogen consuming flora in healthy humans.


BACKGROUND/AIMS: To investigate whether transit time could influence H2 consuming flora and certain indices of colonic bacterial fermentation. METHODS: Eight healthy volunteers (four methane excretors and four non-methane excretors) were studied for three, three week periods during which they received a controlled diet alone (control period), and then the same diet with cisapride or loperamide. At the end of each period, mean transit time (MTT) was estimated, an H2 lactulose breath test was performed, and stools were analysed. RESULTS: In the control period, transit time was inversely related to faecal weight, sulphate reducing bacteria counts, concentrations of total short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), propionic and butyric acids, and H2 excreted in breath after lactulose ingestion. Conversely, transit time was positively related to faecal pH and tended to be related to methanogen counts. Methanogenic bacteria counts were inversely related to those of sulphate reducing bacteria and methane excretors had slower MTT and lower sulphate reducing bacteria counts than non-methane excretors. Compared with the control period, MTT was significantly shortened (p < 0.05) by cisapride and prolonged (p < 0.05) by loperamide (73 (11) hours, 47 (5) hours and 147 (12) hours for control, cisapride, and loperamide, respectively, mean (SD)). Cisapride reduced transit time was associated with (a) a significant rise in faecal weight, sulphate reducing bacteria, concentrations of total SCFAs, and propionic and butyric acids and breath H2 as well as (b) a significant fall in faecal pH and breath CH4 excretion, and (c) a non-significant decrease in the counts of methanogenic bacteria. Reverse relations were roughly the same during the loperamide period including a significant rise in the counts of methanogenic bacteria and a significant fall in those of sulphate reducing bacteria. CONCLUSIONS: Transit time differences between healthy volunteers are associated with differences in H2 consuming flora and certain indices of colonic fermentation. Considering the effects of some fermentation products on intestinal morphology and function, these variations may be relevant to the pathogenesis of colorectal diseases.

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