All About Laxatives

Laxatives are often used to treat constipation because they encourage bowel movements. Some laxatives make stools easier to pass, while others add fiber to the seat to make it bulkier.

Constipation is a common problem that these aids address. Most may be purchased without a doctor's visit or a particular prescription. Laxatives come in various oral forms, including liquids, pills, and capsules. A person may also use the rectum to ingest them, as with suppositories or enemas.

Although some individuals have to use the lavatory twice or thrice daily, others may go once or twice weekly. The typical amount of times is infinite. Changes in bowel habits should be taken more seriously.

Why Do People Use Laxatives?

If dietary and other lifestyle modifications have failed to alleviate constipation, or if the patient has a medical condition (such as angina) that might be made worse by straining, laxatives may be prescribed.

It's vital to rule out any underlying causes of constipation before resorting to laxatives, such as a lack of fiber in the diet. Bowel regularity varies significantly across individuals. Therefore, the lack of a daily bowel movement does not indicate constipation. When a person's bowel movements slow down to a frequency inconsistent with their typical pattern, it is considered constipation. Long-term use of laxatives is not recommended outside of a doctor's care since they may lead to electrolyte imbalances (such as low potassium levels), dehydration, and a slow bowel.

If you're having trouble going to the toilet, try modifying your routine first, such as drinking more water, exercising, and eating more fruits and vegetables high in fiber.

Type Of Laxatives

Laxatives That Cause Bulk

Such as ispaghula husk and methylcellulose, which function similarly to dietary fiber; they cause your stools to retain more moisture, increasing their size and prompting your intestines to expel them.

An Osmotic Laxative

Such as lactulose and polyethylene glycol increase bowel water content and soften feces, making them more manageable to pass.

Laxatives With Stimulants

Drugs including bisacodyl, senna, and sodium picosulfate stimulate the neurons that regulate the muscles lining your digestive system and hasten the passage of stool.

Laxatives and Stool Softeners

Arachis oil and docusate sodium provide moisture to dry stools to pass them more easily.

Bowel cleaning solutions, peripheral opioid-receptor antagonists, linaclotide, and prucalopride are a few of the alternative laxatives used less often.

What Kind Of Laxative Should I Take?

Laxatives have been available for quite some time, but no reliable data support claims regarding their efficacy or differentiation across brands.

Most people should start with a laxative that creates bulk before trying anything else, although this rule has several exceptions (see below). Within 2–3 days, most people see an effect from them. If a bulk-forming laxative isn't doing the trick, an osmotic laxative may be what you need. Use a stimulant laxative in addition to a bulk-forming laxative if you have soft stools that are still difficult to pass. Stimulant laxatives typically take 6-12 hours to take action, whereas osmotic laxatives take 2-3 days. If you want advice on choosing a laxative, you should see a doctor or chemist. If you or your kid are experiencing constipation despite using several laxatives, it is essential to see a doctor.

How To Use Laxatives?

Laxatives exist in a variety of dosage forms, the most popular of which are −

  • Tablets or capsules you swallow

  • Sachets of powder you mix with water and then drink

  • Suppositories are capsules that release their contents over a few hours after being inserted into the rectal cavity.

  • Substances that are ingested directly through the gastrointestinal tract

Certain laxatives are time-specific and should be taken either first thing in the morning or before bed. Read the included patient information sheet to ensure you take your medicine correctly. See your chemist if you are still unsure how to take your prescription.

Drinking enough fluids when using bulk-forming or osmotic laxatives is incredibly vital. This is because using these laxatives may lead to losing body fluids. Never take more of a laxative than is prescribed since doing so may be dangerous and lead to unpleasant side effects.

Pros and Cons

Laxatives are advantageous since they are readily available without a prescription, and they are usually well-tolerated and effective. Certain laxatives may alleviate constipation that some medications might induce, and they can also assist individuals in avoiding the potentially harmful practice of straining to defecate.

The following are some potential hazards −

  • Some individuals experience cramps, bloating, and sickness after using laxatives.

  • Except for bulk laxatives, regular usage of laxatives for an extended period may lead to dependence on laxatives and may obscure signs of severe constipation.

  • Laxatives can decrease the effectiveness of other drugs. If possible, wait at least two hours between using a laxative and another prescription.

  • It would help if you never took laxatives to slim down. Abuse of laxatives is harmful since it may lead to dehydration, weakness, fainting, and renal damage, none of which aid in weight loss.

  • Constipation is best treated by increasing fiber intake, maintaining a regular exercise routine, and drinking lots of water; laxatives are not a replacement for these measures. Constipation may be avoided in a number of ways, including by avoiding meals that are heavy in fats and sugars and by never ignoring the desire to use the lavatory.

  • See your physician about the appropriate laxative for your specific case of constipation. Never disregard the warning signs of bloody or tarry stools. See your doctor before using any over-the-counter or herbal constipation solution if your symptoms last over two weeks, including stomach discomfort, nausea, or vomiting.


Laxatives may be broken down into four categories. They may be beneficial in alleviating constipation, but it is vital to use them carefully and only when required. The abuse of laxatives is a significant problem. Increased physical activity and consuming fiber-rich meals may have a laxative impact.

If a person suffers from chronic constipation or over-the-counter drugs are not working, they should contact a doctor for guidance on therapy. If you have any gastrointestinal illness or are using any medicine, you should always see your doctor before attempting a laxative.

Updated on: 07-Apr-2023


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