In most cases, changes in diet and lifestyle can prevent constipation. While a high-fiber diet and active lifestyle are the first line of defense against this common, uncomfortable condition, severe cases may require an immediate solution. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends "quick-fix" cures to constipation only when gentle measures like fiber, bulk laxatives and stool softeners have failed. Consult your health care provider immediately if your constipation is accompanied by severe pain, blood in your stool or bloating; these may be signs of a serious condition requiring expert evaluation.
Stimulant laxatives, including herbs like cascara sagrada and senna, may help to relieve constipation quickly. Over-the-counter pharmaceutical laxatives include Correctol and Dulcolax.
The Mayo Clinic compares saline laxatives to sponges; they work by drawing fluid into the colon, facilitating the passage of a bowel movement. These over-the-counter remedies work quickly and produce a bowel movement within 15 minutes to 6 hours. Some popular saline laxatives include magnesium citrate and milk of magnesia.
Lubricant laxatives make bowel movements slippery and easy to pass. Castor oil, olive oil and mineral oil can all help to make bowel movements easier and less painful.
Most health care providers recommend an enema only when other treatment options have proven ineffective. Enemas are the most fast-acting home remedy for treating constipation; they work within minutes or seconds. Carefully follow the manufacturer's guidelines for using an enema, since improper use can introduce an infection.