Laxatives: Do They Work?

Laxatives available mainly for constipation, but also have the potential to be used for a variety of different purposesIf you have trouble passing a stool or emptying your bowels for any reason, it is likely that you will be recommended laxatives. These are, of course, available mainly for constipation, but laxatives have the potential to be used for a variety of different purposes. You can purchase them ‘over the counter’, although stronger ones are available via prescription.

Laxatives come in a variety of different formats. Each will help to remove that stool from your system in a slightly different way:

  • Bulk-forming laxatives: These are some of the most common laxatives around. The job of these laxatives will be to boost the bulk of the stool. It will do this by ensuring that the stool is able to retain fluid. This pretty much means that bulk-forming laxatives do exactly what a high-fiber diet would do. They tend to work a little bit quicker though and are highly effective.
  • Osmotic laxatives will soften up your stool. It will do this by increasing the amount of water that is in your bowels. This should, hopefully, ensure that the stool becomes soft enough for your body to start pushing it out with ease.
  • Stimulant laxatives work in a completely different way to the previous two. The job of stimulant laxatives will be to increase the speed at which your bowels force out the stool. It does this by stimulating the nerves. This will, in turn, kick the muscles into action. Once those muscles start to work, they will have an easier time of moving the stool out of your body.
  • Stool softeners: These, like the first two, will look to boost the amount of water content in the stool. This will ensure that they come out far easier. This method is often used when the stool is dry and hard.

It is probably worth noting that there are a few additional types of laxative out there on the market. However, they are not used all that often. This is because the majority of conditions, even if they are quite serious, can be cleared up with the previous four. Your doctor may wish to look into the alternatives if they find one option is not working as well as it should, however.

At the moment, there is no real guidance as to which laxative is more effective than the other. However, the majority of doctors will probably recommend that you start with a ‘bulk-forming laxative’. If the constipation is not down to soft stools, however, then you may wish to look into a stimulant laxative instead. If neither of those options work you can try something else.

Remember, children should not usually be using laxatives. They have the potential to dehydrate the child pretty quickly when taken, which will make the situation worse. You should also not be using laxatives if you suffer from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. If you are having issues in either of those situations, you should really talk to your doctor who will be able to give you far better advice.

Find out more about hemorrhoid prevention