PHOTOGRAPHED BY JESSICA NASH.
Constipation sucks. It can get in the way of normal sleeping and eating patterns, cause serious discomfort, hinder gym time, and halt hangouts with friends. If you've ever experienced an internal bumper-to-bumper traffic jam, you probably felt willing to try just about anything to get things moving again. While there are dozens of laxative drinks, powders, tablets, and enemas on the market, a new high-tech pill is making waves in the gastroenterology community — and in people's intestines.
The new capsule, created with a small engine inside, is programmed to vibrate six to eight hours after it's swallowed. The creator of the pill, Dr. Yishai Ron, MD, clued us in on what happens next: The vibration on the intestine wall stimulates the peristaltic wave (muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract), thus increasing mobility of stool.
In the pilot study, use of the capsule nearly doubled the frequency of bowel movements in patients suffering from chronic constipation. The 26 patients in the study used the vibrating capsule twice per week; all patients ditched laxatives two weeks prior, to see how the pill worked on its own. Their average "going rate" increased from twice to four times per week with the help of the capsule.
In case you were wondering (we were), Dr. Ron says the capsule is disposable and is flushed down the toilet after each use. And, there will be no vibrating plumbing either: “The capsule will consume its energy before it leaves the body,” he says. According to the clinical studies conducted so far (which are admittedly small in scope), the capsule has zero side effects — and the patients didn’t even feel it.
We could talk about constipation all day, but for your sake (and in case you’re eating lunch) we’ll stick to the basics. The condition reportedly affects around 15% of the U.S. population. While many sufferers are 65 years or older, there are a number of known causes — including certain medications, lack of physical activity, diets low in fiber, and stress — that can lead to constipation at any age. Symptoms of chronic constipation can be severe, and many people are dissatisfied with current treatment options (which are largely unregulated and may cause uncomfortable side effects like cramping, diarrhea, and gas). Sure, consuming a battery-operated pill sounds unconventional, but this technology may be the most effective, sensible solution to chronic constipation yet.
Dr. Ron and his research team plan to carry out a controlled, double-blind study before releasing the mechanical pill to the public. He estimates the market launch for this poop-mover will start in late 2015 and its price tag will be determined in the next few months.