It is hard to imagine what inspired anyone to first drink mineral oil. A petroleum by-product, slick in texture with little discernible taste, its therapeutic benefits are anything but obvious. Yet, mineral oil is a time-tested remedy used to relieve constipation. ease the pain of bowel movements for hemorrhoid sufferers, and treat distal intestinal obstruction in children with cystic fibrosis.
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In spite of widespread use, some doctors advise against using mineral oil, citing possible respiratory complications and problems with vitamin absorption, according to the Integrative Medical Arts Group of Beaverton, Oregon. It's best to discuss your symptoms with a doctor before trying to treat them with mineral oil yourself.
According to the National Institutes of Health, if you have three or fewer bowel movements per week, you are constipated. Constipation occurs when fecal matter hardens inside the intestine and becomes difficult to pass. Many people drink mineral oil to ease constipation. Mineral oil lines the intestines and prevents the body from absorbing water. The water works to soften dry, hard stool in the intestine, and initiates peristalsis, or the forward push of the intestines. A bowel movement generally occurs within six to eight hours after drinking mineral oil.
People drink mineral oil to treat internal hemorrhoids. Internal hemorrhoids occur when the veins in the anus or the rectum swell. Hemorrhoids are uncomfortable, causing bleeding, itching, and tenderness in and around the anus. If you have hemorrhoids, the lubricating effect of mineral oil may ease the pain of your bowel movements and help you pass stool with greater ease and comfort. Drinking mineral oil may also help you reduce the straining that can both cause and exacerbate hemorrhoids.
Children with cystic fibrosis are susceptible to distal intestinal obstruction syndrome, or DIOS. DIOS occurs when food or mucus sticks to the intestine and causes blockage. This is a painful condition for most children, and depending on the severity, may require a short stay in the hospital. If the blockage is not too severe, a doctor may prescribe mineral oil to treat the blockage. Mineral oil may also prevent some DIOS episodes, and doctors advise parents to administer mineral oil to children at the first sign of onset. If you are the parent of a child with cystic fibrosis and you suspect DIOS, contact your doctor for specific instructions regarding mineral oil and other possible treatments.
Dr. Robert Needlman recommends giving children mineral oil to treat constipation. He suggests mixing it with chocolate syrup or freezing it overnight to disguise the unappealing texture. A main benefit of administering mineral oil to children over other laxative products is that you can easily adjust the dose and frequency to suit your child. If your child is constipated, seek medical attention to determine the best course of action.
Use of mineral oil prevents the absorption of vitamins A, K, D, and E. If you plan to use mineral oil for more than a few days, you should take a vitamin supplement at least two hours before or after taking the mineral oil. (See References 2)
Mineral oil can reduce the potency of some oral contraceptives. If you rely on oral contraceptives for birth control, consult a doctor before taking mineral oil. (See References 2)
If inhaled into the lungs, mineral oil can cause lipid pneumonia. (See References 1)
Mineral oil may cause diarrhea. It is important to drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day to avoid possible dehydration while taking mineral oil. (See References 5)