Laxatives to treat constipation: Oral-use laxatives used for constipation

In the case of persistent constipation after changing your eating habits, taking oral laxatives may help you to treat your constipation more effectively.

Laxatives to treat constipation
Laxatives to treat constipation

These laxatives are dispensed without a prescription but note that their use must be limited and punctual, as they can in the medium term become a cause of constipation, as we have already explained.

In all cases, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice before using a laxative, they will advise you and refer you to the one that will be most suitable for you.

There are several kinds of laxatives used as a treatment for constipation:

The laxatives of ballast

Ballast laxatives are powdered or granulated and are composed of prepared dietary fiber or mucilage (a mucilage is a plant substance that swells on contact with water and produces a viscous substance similar to gelatin, Thickening, adhesive and softening properties).

The principle of operation of this type of laxative is to help increase stool volume, which will trigger the peristalsis of the intestines (mechanical action of the intestines advancing the stools in the digestive tract towards the rectum to (or “intending to”) their expulsion). Indeed, as already explained in other articles, the fibers will swell by mixing with water, thus forming softer and bulky stools.

Note that the laxative effect is not immediate, and it may be necessary to wait until a few days before obtaining the results of ingestion of a laxative ballast (usually between 12h and three days). It is also recommended to drink plenty of water when taking such laxatives (the action of water being essential to make the fibers swell).

Ballast laxatives are the mildest laxatives for the intestines. These are the only laxatives that can be used in the long term without too much risk (which is not the case with other laxatives).

Known side effects: bloating, flatulence, abdominal cramps. To limit these effects, you can gradually integrate them into your diet, to gently habituate your intestines to their action.

Example of laxatives: Metamucil®, Mucivital®, Spagulax®, Normacol®, Karayal®, Inolaxine®, Normacol®, Prodiem®, Colosan® Mite®, Transilane®, Parapsyllium®, …

An example of natural laxatives: figs, psyllium seeds, …

Best natural stool softener for adults
Best natural stool softener for adults

(Lists of non-exhaustive laxatives are given for information only, ask your pharmacist for advice and read the package leaflet carefully before use)

Lubricating laxatives

Lubricant laxatives are based on mineral oils (usually paraffin or petroleum jelly ). They can be administered orally, but also rectally.

The purpose of these laxatives is, as their name suggests, to lubricate the stools by coating them with a fat-soluble film that delays the absorption of water and allows them to “slip” more quickly to the rectum to evacuate them more Easily.

It is not recommended to use this type of laxative if you can do without it, let alone in the long term. This kind of laxative can reduce the body’s absorption of certain vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E or K by cooking the fecal matter and the walls of the intestine with a lubricating material.

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Known side effects : diarrhea (stopping the laxative as soon as the stool becomes too soft), stomach cramps , lung inflammation , if the oil is accidentally aspirated into the lung when taking the laxative, or If mineral oils can ascend the esophagus (in case of gastroesophageal reflux) and enter the lungs (especially in the elderly).

An example of laxatives: paraffin oil, Lancoyl®, Laxamalt®, Lubentyl®, Melaxose®, Molagar®, Parlax®, Transitol®, …

(Lists of non-exhaustive laxatives are given for information only, ask your pharmacist for advice and read the package leaflet carefully before use)

The emollient laxatives

The emollient laxatives are composed of chemicals, mainly Docusate Sodium or Calcium Docusate.

They serve to soften the stools by promoting the work of water absorption by these, which helps their passage and allows you to evaluate them without the need to force.

The stool softening effect is not immediate, and it takes up to 3 days for the stools to become softer.

Be careful not to make products containing mineral oil (such as lubricant laxatives) within hours of taking such an emollient laxative, as this would promote absorption of these toxic oils to the body by intestines.

Known side effects: Consult your doctor if you have severe stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting, rash, persistent diarrhea (even after stopping the laxative)

Example of laxatives: Colace®, Regulex®, Soflax®, Ex-Lax®, … (Docusate Sodium) / Surfak®, … (Calcium Docusate)

(Lists of non-exhaustive laxatives are given for information only, ask your pharmacist for advice and read the package leaflet carefully before use)

Osmotic laxatives

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Osmotic laxatives are the most common type of laxative used in cases of constipation. They are laxatives based on salt (sodium sulfate, magnesium sulfate, …), sugars not assimilated by the intestine (lactulose, mannose, mannitol, sorbitol, …), or milk of magnesia (hydroxide of Magnesium).

The purpose of these laxatives is to attract as much as possible the water in the stool and to retain it there, which makes it possible to soften the stools and thus as already seen to facilitate the intestinal transit and the evacuation of the fecal matter. They can also result in a higher intestinal gas production, which promotes the process of expelling stool by increasing the pressure in the rectum.

The effect of osmotic laxatives is faster than other types of laxatives.

The laxative effect can thus be observed rapidly, at the earliest 1 to 2 hours after ingestion. It may, however, depending on the people, and the preparations be a little longer to act (up to 1 or 2 days).

Like most laxatives, however, it is not advisable to use long-term osmotic laxatives because they can cause the patient to enter a vicious circle and cause constipation even more important than before treatment.

Known side effects: diarrhea, cramps, flatulence, dehydration (in case of high doses)

An example of laxatives: Miralax®, Apilaxe®, Carbonex®, Forlax®, Hepargitol®, Importal®, Lactulose®, Macrogol®, Movicol®, Sorbilene®, Sorbitol®, Cololyt®, Importal®, Duphalac®, …

(Lists of non-exhaustive laxatives are given for information only, ask your pharmacist for advice and read the package leaflet carefully before use)

Irritating stimulant laxatives

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Stimulating laxatives act directly on the muscles of the intestine and the intestinal mucosa. They stimulate and increase the secretion of water and electrolytes, which increases the contractions of the digestive tract (peristalsis).

The effect is usually fast.

However, it is strongly advised not to use this type of laxative even in the short or medium term because they are very irritating to the mucosa of the colon and can cause inflammation of the intestinal wall. They should, therefore, be avoided in case of chronic constipation where they are taken over the long term.

They can be used with caution on rare occasions, for example before surgery where it would be necessary to empty the intestines quickly. In all cases, do not consume more than one or two weeks without an associated medical check.

Known side effects: diarrhea, abdominal cramps, rectal burns

An example of laxatives: Agiolax®, Arkolax®, Contalax®, Dulcolax®, Laxafit®, Peristaltine®, Prontolax®, Tonilax®, …

(Lists of non-exhaustive laxatives are given for information only, ask your pharmacist for advice and read the package leaflet carefully before use)

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