Laxatives are medications or substances that are used to promote bowel movements and relieve constipation. They work by stimulating the intestines, softening the stool, increasing stool volume, or lubricating the intestinal tract.
What do laxatives do?
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Laxatives are medications or substances that are used to promote bowel movements and relieve constipation. They work by stimulating the intestines, softening the stool, increasing stool volume, or lubricating the intestinal tract. The specific action of a laxative depends on its type and mechanism of action. Here are some common types of laxatives and how they work:
1. Bulk-forming laxatives: These laxatives contain fiber or fiber-like substances that absorb water and increase the bulk of the stool. They help to stimulate bowel movements and soften the stool, making it easier to pass. The major bulk-forming laxative brand is Citrucel with methylcellulose as the active ingredient.
2. Stimulant laxatives: These laxatives work by irritating the lining of the intestines, which leads to increased muscular contractions and faster movement of stool through the intestines. Stimulant laxatives can produce bowel movements relatively quickly, usually within a few hours. The major stimulant laxative brand is Dulcolax with bisacodyl as the active ingredient.
3. Osmotic laxatives: These laxatives work by drawing water into the intestines, which softens the stool and increases bowel movement. They help to relieve constipation by increasing the amount of fluid in the intestines and stimulating the muscles to move stool along. The major osmotic laxative brand is Miralax with polyethylene glycol as the active ingredient.
5. Lubricant laxatives: These laxatives, like mineral oil, coat the stool and the lining of the intestines, making it easier for the stool to move through the intestines.
It's important to note that while laxatives can be effective in relieving temporary constipation, they should be used judiciously and under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Overuse or misuse of laxatives can lead to dependence, electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and other complications. If you have persistent or severe constipation, it's best to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and guidance.