Role of Oxytocin in Constipation

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Oxytocin and its receptor havebeen found throughout the gastrointestinaltract, where it affects gutfunction. Because of improvementsin bowel habits during lactation inpostpartum women with constipation,a study was recently conductedto examine whether oxytocinhas an effect on bowelsymptoms and psychological well-beingin women with refractory constipation.

In a report by Bodil Ohlsson,MD, and colleagues (Neurogastroenterologyand Motility, June2005), women (n = 59) with refractoryconstipation were randomlyallocated to treatment with nasalinhalation of either oxytocin orplacebo. Symptoms, includingaltered bowel habits and abdominalpain and discomfort, were assessedat baseline and at the endof the study using the GastrointestinalSymptoms Rating Scale(GSRS) and Psychological GeneralWell-Being scores.

Oxytocin and placebo both alleviatedconstipation, as assessed bythe GSRS, along with sensations ofincomplete evacuation and anorectalobstruction. Abdominal pain anddiscomfort responded weakly tooxytocin; placebo had no effect.

In a subgroup of patients withirritable bowel syndrome anddepression, a small improvement indepression was observed afteroxytocin administration. Althoughtreatment with oxytocin had no significantadvantage over placebo inrelieving constipation, it did have apositive effect on abdominal painand discomfort and on depression.

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