Do Laxatives Make You Bloated?

Difficulty passing stools, infrequent stools and hard stools are all signs of constipation. This condition can result in several minutes of pushing and straining to no avail. The discomfort of this scenario may lead you to reach for an over-the-counter laxative. But relief may come with a price -- stomach bloating.

Close-up of man holding his stomach in discomfort. (Image: nebari/iStock/Getty Images)

What Is a Laxative?

Laxatives are medications that help relieve constipation. According to SUNY Upstate Medical University, six types of laxatives are available for use: bulk forming, stimulant, saline, lubricant, hyperosmotic and stool softening laxatives. Bulk forming laxatives make stool larger, causing it to move through the intestines. Saline, hyperosmotic and stool softeners increase water content in the intestines, relieving constipation. Lubricant laxatives utilize oily substances such as mineral oil, making it easier to have a bowel movement.

Side Effects

Laxatives, like most medications, have a list of side effects that may occur after use. Bloating is one of these side effects. According to Barnard College, when you take a laxative, it diminishes water supplies in your body, causing dehydration. As a result, your body fights back by retaining water. This water retention results in bloating. Aside from bloating, laxative use may also result in abdominal cramping, gas, increased thirst and in some cases, diarrhea.

Laxative Abuse

Laxatives are only for short-term use, which is less than one week. Chronic abuse of laxatives can cause a series of health complications such as electrolyte imbalances. In addition, Washington and Lee University explains that laxative overuse may result in non-responsive bowels, renal stones, fatigue, malabsorption, stomach ulcers and severe abdominal pain. Laxative abuse may also cause bloating in your face, stomach, hands and feet and in your ankles. Continued abuse that remains unaddressed may even result in death.

After Laxatives

If you have relied on laxatives to relieve your constipation for longer than one week, you may experience withdrawal symptoms after stopping. According to Brown University Health Services, these withdrawal symptoms can last for approximately one to three weeks. During this time, you may experience increased constipation, fluid retention and bloating. Fluid retention and the bloating that comes with it may result in a temporary weight gain. If these symptoms continue for longer than three weeks, speak to your physician.

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