Laxatives, effective at relieving constipation, are intended for short-term use only.
Laxatives are drugs that relieve constipation by loosening stools or inducing a bowel movement.
Some laxatives are also used before bowel procedures or examinations.
Laxatives come as pills, capsules, liquids, foods, gums, suppositories, and enemas.
Most laxatives are intended for short-term use.
Common types of laxatives include:
Bulking Agents: These laxatives increase the water content and bulk of the stool, making it move more easily through the intestinal tract.
They typically take 12 to 72 hours to work.
Examples include psyllium (Metamucil); methylcellulose (Citrucel); and high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Lubricant Laxatives: These make stool slippery, so it moves through the intestine more easily and quickly.
They typically take six to eight hours to work. Mineral oil is an example.
Emollient Laxatives: These stool softeners cause fats and water to penetrate to the stool, making it move more easily through the digestive system.
They typically take 12 to 72 hours to work. Examples include Colace and Diocto.
Stimulant Laxatives: These stimulate the lining of the intestine to propel the stool along.
They provide very quick relief but should only be used occasionally. Examples include Ex-Lax, Senokot, Correctol, Dulcolax, and Feen-a-Mint.