Laxatives are drugs, foods or substances used to induce bowel movement to relieve constipation. The doctor may advise you to take laxatives if you have medical conditions that may be worsened by straining. These conditions include heart disease, hemorrhoids and hernia rupture. Laxatives are also used to evacuate your bowel before you undergo lower abdominal medical procedures such as colonoscopy. Oral laxatives should be taken one or two hours after meals.
Different types of oral laxatives include bulk-forming laxatives, saline laxatives, lubricant laxatives and stimulant laxatives. Oral laxatives should be taken after meals with a full glass of cold water or juice, according to Drugs.com. Laxatives are taken after meals because they can prevent your body from absorbing nutrients if they are taken together with food. Avoid frequent use of mineral oil and castor oil as laxatives because they can affect the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
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How Laxatives Work
Bulk-forming laxatives relieve constipation by adding bulk and moisture to stool, which allows for easier passage. Examples of bulk-forming laxatives include psyllium and methylcellulose. Saline laxatives draw fluids into your colon from nearby body tissues, which helps soften stool. Examples of saline laxatives include milk of magnesia and polyethylene glycol. Lubricant laxatives coat the surface of stool, which helps stool hold water so that they can move out of your body. Stimulant laxatives induce a bowel movement by causing the colon to contract and push stools out of your body.
Laxatives Side Effects
If you are taking laxatives, you may experience common side effects such as gas, bloating, cramping, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Stop taking laxatives and seek immediate medical attention if you experience bleeding from your rectum or if you don't have a bowel movement after using a laxative. Do not take laxatives if you have gastrointestinal disturbances that have not been diagnosed.
Diet and Lifestyle Factors
Laxatives should only be used for short-term relief of constipation, according to Drugs.com. If you are experiencing frequent constipation, diet changes may help prevent constipation. A high-fiber diet, fluids and daily exercise are important in preventing constipation. Examples of high-fiber foods include whole grain breads and cereals, bran, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables. Drinking eight to 10 glasses of water every day helps prevent constipation. Daily exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes, can also help prevent constipation.