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What are the Pros and Cons of Using a Laxative for Constipation?

By Dulce Corazon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Constipation is a condition in which bowel movement occurs less often than normal, and is usually accompanied by straining and the sensation of incomplete bowel emptying. Physicians may sometimes give a laxative for constipation treatment. The pros of using laxative for treatment include relief from constipation symptoms and easy passage of soft stools. Laxatives have, however, some cons or negative effects when used improperly, such as allergic reactions, vitamin deficiency, chronic constipation, and adverse interaction with other drugs. Their use is also contraindicated for pregnant women, for the elderly, for diabetic individuals, and for those with kidney problems.

There are several types of laxative for constipation that can be given to patients. These include stool softeners, lubricant laxatives, bulk-forming laxatives and stimulant laxatives. Some individuals also use herbal laxative as alternative treatment for their constipation. The most common reason for using laxative for constipation is to give relief to symptoms. Most laxatives work by gathering water into the stools thus making them soft and easy to pass out. Other laxatives act by lubricating the anal canal resulting in easier passage of hard stools.

Use of laxative for constipation is not often recommended by most physicians. Many individuals however, buy over-the-counter laxatives as self-medications for their constipation problems. This may not be healthy as some laxatives can have adverse side effects when used improperly. Some of the minor side effects of laxatives include gas, nausea, bloating, and diarrhea. Allergy to laxatives may also occur.

It is often recommended not to use laxatives for constipation for more than a week. Prolonged usage can usually lead to several health problems. The lubricant laxative, one type of laxative for constipation, is known to contain mineral oils. If used for prolonged periods, the oil can affect the body's ability to absorb several fat-soluble vitamins and may lead to their deficiency in the body.

A stimulant laxative for constipation is often considered effective. If used for longer than recommended, however, it can cause damage to the colon and lead to chronic constipation. Other types of laxatives may also react with certain antibiotics and heart medications the patient is also taking.

Use of some laxatives for constipation in pregnant women may be contraindicated as there are types that can pass into breast milk. Elderly individuals usually experience less active bowel movements due to old age and may tend to overuse laxatives. They are therefore more prone to suffer from laxative side effects. Some laxatives may have sugar in them, and must not be given to diabetic patients. Laxatives containing magnesium and potassium are also not recommended for patients with kidney problems, as they can aggravate the kidney problem.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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