Episode # 8 Laxatives
Show Notes: The links shown below are the basis of the podcast episode information and contain information in the podcast and more. Please talk with your healthcare provider and pharmacist for further information and clarification.
- Episode Links
|Type of laxative (brand examples)||How they work||Side effects|
|Oral osmotics (Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia, MiraLAX)||Draw water into the colon to allow easier passage of stool||Bloating, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, gas, increased thirst|
|Oral bulk formers (Benefiber, Citrucel, FiberCon, Metamucil)||Absorb water to form soft, bulky stool, prompting normal contraction of intestinal muscles||Bloating, gas, cramping or increased constipation if not taken with enough water|
|Oral stool softeners (Colace, Surfak)||Add moisture to stool to soften stool, allowing strain-free bowel movements||Electrolyte imbalance with prolonged use|
|Oral stimulants (Dulcolax, Senokot)||Trigger rhythmic contractions of intestinal muscles to eliminate stool||Belching, cramping, diarrhea, nausea, urine discoloration with senna and cascara derivatives|
|Rectal suppositories (Dulcolax, Pedia-Lax)||Trigger rhythmic contractions of intestinal muscles and soften stool||Rectal irritation, diarrhea, cramping|
Oral laxatives may interfere with your body’s absorption of some medications and nutrients. Some laxatives can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, especially after prolonged use. Electrolytes — which include calcium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and sodium — regulate a number of body functions. An electrolyte imbalance can cause abnormal heart rhythms, weakness, confusion and seizures.
Combination laxatives: Check labels carefully
Some products combine different types of laxatives, such as a stimulant and a stool softener. But combination products don’t necessarily work more effectively than single-ingredient products. In addition, they may be more likely to cause side effects.
A single-ingredient laxative may work better for you. Read labels to make sure you know what you’re taking, and use with caution.
Risks of laxative use
- Interaction with medications.Your medical history and medications you’re taking may limit your laxative options. Laxatives can interact with some antibiotics, and certain heart and bone medications. Read labels carefully. If you’re not sure whether to try a particular laxative, ask your pharmacist or doctor. Don’t exceed recommended dosages unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
- Complicating conditions.Laxative use can be dangerous if constipation is caused by a serious condition, such as appendicitis or a bowel obstruction. If you frequently use certain laxatives for weeks or months, they can decrease your colon’s ability to contract and actually worsen constipation.
- Precautions for pregnant women and children.Don’t give children under age 6 laxatives without a doctor’s recommendation. If you’re pregnant, ask your doctor before using laxatives. Bulk-forming laxatives and stool softeners are generally safe to use during pregnancy, but stimulant laxatives may be harmful.
If you’ve recently given birth, consult your doctor before using laxatives. Although they’re usually safe to use during breastfeeding, some ingredients may pass into breast milk and cause diarrhea in nursing infants.
Take laxatives with caution
If you’re dependent on laxatives to have a bowel movement, ask your doctor for suggestions on how to gradually withdraw from them and restore your colon’s natural ability to contract.
Common laxatives and brands
|Active ingredient||Common brands|
|bran||cereals and other foods|
|docusate||Colace, Correctol, Peri-Colac e, Surfak|
|mineral oil||Various branded and generic products|
|magnesium||magnesium citrate, milk of magnesia|
|polyethylene glycol||MiraLAX or generic versions|
|sodium phosphate||Fleet Phospho-Soda|
|sorbitol or lactulose||ingredients in various products|
|Bisacodyl||Correctol, Dulcolax, Ex-Lax Ultra|
|Casanthranol||Dialose Plus, Peri-Colace|
|castor oil||various brand and generic products|
|Senna||Ex-Lax, Fletcher’s Castoria, Senokot|