Effect on small-bowel distention of additives to water as contrast agents for magnetic resonance (MR) imaging was assessed. Oral contrast agents included water and water in combination with mannitol, a bulk fiber laxative, locust bean gum, and a combination of mannitol and locust bean gum. Filling of the small bowel was quantified on coronal images obtained with two-dimensional true fast imaging with steady-state precession sequence; bowel diameters were measured. Ingestion of water with locust bean gum and mannitol provided the best distention of the small bowel. MR imaging of the small bowel with oral administration of water can be improved with addition of osmotic and nonosmotic substances that lead to decreased water resorption.