May 10, 2011 -- An experimental pill that blocks the absorption of bile acids by the small intestine may help to relieve chronic constipation, early research shows.
The drug, called A3309, works by inhibiting a molecule that removes digestive juices called bile acids from the lower part of the small intestine so they can be recycled by the body.
“We think bile acids are natural laxatives,” says study researcher Banny Wong, MD, instructor of medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. “If you have too much leaking into the colon, then you get diarrhea. If you have too little, then you get constipation.”
In his study, A3309 seemed to allow more bile acids to pass into the colon, which helped soften stool and speed its trip through the gut, Wong tells WebMD.
A separate study also found that A3309 may also help to lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. That makes sense, Wong says, because the liver uses cholesterol to make bile acids.
“The good thing about this medication is that it really changes and shifts the balance of a normal physiological process,” Wong says. He adds that the drug doesn’t appear to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which may mean that it has fewer systemic side effects.