If you have issues emptying your bowels, perhaps because you are suffering from constipation, then laxatives can help. However, it is probably worth noting that laxatives are somewhat of a ‘last resort’ when it comes to the treatment of constipation. You should always try and get more fiber into your diet, or maybe exercise a little bit more, before you opt for laxatives.
Types of Laxative
- Bulk forming laxatives. They perform much the same job that dietary fiber does. This means that they increase the bulk of your stool by allowing them to retain fluid.
- Osmotic laxatives: soften your stool, increasing the speed at which it can pass through your system.
- Stimulant laxatives: they have an impact on the muscles of the bowels which helps to speed up the way in which they work.
- Stool softener laxatives: helps to soften up some of the harder, dryer stools.
There are other types of laxative, but it is likely that these will be the ones that get the most use for you.
What Type of Laxative Should You Use?
In most cases, you should start with a bulk-forming laxative. For the most part, these should deal with any constipation issues that you may have. They take about three days to work. If this still fails, then an osmotic laxative is probably the best route to go down.
You can purchase laxatives over the counter, but you should only really take a laxative if your doctor says that it is the best method for dealing with your constipation and you have exhausted every other possible method that you can use.
How to Take Laxatives
This is all going to be dependent on the laxative that you buy. Most of them are swallowed. Others are inserted into your rectum. Obviously, you will always want to read the label to make sure that you are consuming them in the right way!
You should not take laxatives as a long-term solution. At the most, you should use them for a couple of days. As soon as you believe that your constipation has improved, then you will want to ensure that you stop taking the laxatives.
If the constipation returns after you cease using the laxative, then you know that you have a deeper problem that needs to be dealt with. In many cases, it is just that you need to drink more water or exercise more regularly. Others will try to get much more fibre into their diet.
When Should You Take Laxatives?
You should only take laxatives if you are dealing with constipation. There is no other reason as to why you may wish to consider them. If you have hemorrhoids, then avoiding constipation is going to be incredibly important because the hemorrhoids are going to be irritated if you really need to strain to push that stool out. Although, you will need to use other methods to keep those hemorrhoids at bay at the same time! Read here: How to prevent hemorrhoids
While it normally takes three days for laxatives to start to work, if you have not seen a change in your body for at least seven days, then talk to your doctor. You should be trying to make lifestyle changes at the same time to ensure that the laxatives continue to work for you.
Side Effects to Laxatives
Laxatives are a medication. This means that there will be side-effects to them should you consume them. However, thankfully, the side effects are not going to be too crazy. It is rare for there to be serious side effects when you are consuming laxatives. In most cases, once you stop the laxatives, the symptoms should disappear.
Of course, since there are countless medications on the market, the type of side effect will vary quite a bit. It may include:
- Cramps in the stomach
It is also worth noting that if you take laxatives long term, then you may make your stools a little bit too lose and you will be dealing with diarrhea. In other cases, the laxatives may not work properly. Eventually, your intestines end up getting blocked with dry stools. This means that your constipation has become a lot worse. Of course, in both cases, you should try and stop taking the laxatives as soon as you can. You should also inform your doctor that you are experiencing side-effects.
Alternatives to Laxatives
Wherever possible, we suggest that you consider one of the many different alternatives to laxatives. The main reason for this is to ensure that you do not come to rely on laxatives. If you are constipated, there is a reason for this and in the vast majority of cases, whatever the reason is, you can deal with it on your own without the need for medication. You really should just use the medication as a way in which you can be ‘tided over’ until the problem is fixed.
Many people do not get enough fiber into their diet. You should be consuming at least 30 grams of fiber every day. If you are not, then you will become constipated. Thankfully, getting more fiber into your diet should not be too difficult. You just need to ensure that you are consuming a balanced diet and you are very much ‘good to go’.
It is also suggested that you look into drinking more water. You should be drinking at least eight glasses per day, but if you ever feel thirsty, drink more water. Perhaps one of the best suggestions that we can give you here is to get your hands on an app for your smartphone. This app will tell you when you need to consume more water, so make sure you follow its advice!
Finally; do a bit more exercise. Thirty minutes of exercise each day is going to work absolute wonders when it comes to ensuring that your body continues to tick over nicely. Exercise helps to keep the digestive system flowing properly.