When you need to relieve constipation, mineral oil is a better choice than olive oil, which has a mild laxative impact, if any. You'll also get a lot of calories if you try to use olive oil as a laxative, compared to zero calories in mineral oil. Mineral oil can interact with medications and cause side effects; consult your doctor before using either oil to treat constipation to be sure they're safe for your health needs.
Mineral oil is produced from petrolatum. As a lubricant laxative, it helps stool hold in fluid and pass through the colon more easily. Your doctor may recommend mineral oil to treat stool that is impacted, or trapped, in the large intestine.
Olive oil is a mild lubricant laxative, but it only helps relieve constipation if you consume more than the small intestine can absorb, reported the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2012. The oil must pass through the small intestine and into the large intestine before it has a laxative effect.
Consider the Calories
Olive oil’s most important benefit comes from its ability to help lower cholesterol, thanks to monounsaturated fats and plant sterols. Even if mineral oil contained nutrients, it wouldn’t matter because about 98 percent of the amount consumed passes through your body without being absorbed, according to the International Programme on Chemical Safety, or IPCS.
The fact that olive oil is absorbed means it provides calories. You’ll get 119 calories from just 1 tablespoon of olive oil, compared to zero calories from mineral oil. As a result, olive oil isn’t the best choice for a laxative because you may take in more calories than your diet allows.
Neither oil contains the fiber you need to prevent constipation. To keep the digestive tract healthy and maintain regular bowel movements, women should consume 25 grams of fiber daily, while men need 38 grams, recommends the Institute of Medicine.
The benefit of olive oil is that it makes a good dressing for fiber-rich foods, such as leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, berries, quinoa and brown rice. Other good sources of fiber include wheat bran and beans.
Fiber absorbs water as it passes through the intestine. This keeps stool soft and adds bulk, which triggers muscles that contract and push waste out of the body. Drink 9 cups to 12 cups of fluids every day to stay hydrated and help fiber do its job.
Warnings and Side Effects
Mineral oil can cause an allergic reaction. Seek immediate medical attention if you develop swelling in your face, hand, mouth or throat; hives or itching; chest tightness; or difficulty breathing.
If you take medications, especially anticoagulants, antibiotics and meds used to treat heart and bone disease, talk to your doctor before using mineral oil to avoid interactions.
Some people experience stomach pain, nausea and vomiting after taking mineral oil. If these symptoms are severe, or if you see blood in your stool, stop taking mineral oil and call your doctor, advises the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Mineral oil shouldn’t be consumed frequently or for an extended period of time because it inhibits the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Treatment for Constipation
- Drugs.com: Olive Oil
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: Consensus Statement AIGO/SICCR Diagnosis and Treatment of Chronic Constipation and Obstructed Defecation (Part II: Treatment)
- IPCS Inchem: Toxicological Evaluation of Some Extraction Solvents and Certain Other Substances
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- University of Michigan Integrative Medicine: Healing Foods Pyramid: Water
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Oil, Olive, Salad or Cooking
- FamilyDoctor.org: Laxatives: OTC Products for Constipation
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Mineral Oil (By Mouth)