Colace & Senna for Kidney Dialysis Patients With Constipation

Dialysis is the treatment used to replace kidney function after kidney failure. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Both types cleanse the blood of waste products, help manage electrolyte balance and remove excess fluid from the body. While dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment and performs important functions, you can still experience side effects or complications of the disease and treatment. One complication of dialysis is constipation. The National Institutes of Health defines constipation as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week; your stools may also be dry, hard and difficult to pass. Your dialysis doctor may recommend a laxative, such as Colace or senna, to help alleviate your constipation.

Dialysis machine (Image: Asparuh Stoyanov/iStock/Getty Images)

Colace Facts

Colace is a brand name for docusate; it is an over-the-counter stool softener. According to, it is available in the United Stages as 50 and 100 mg capsules, liquid or syrup. Colace works by making the stools softer and easier to pass. It is generally recommended that you drink plenty of water when taking Colace. also warns that you should not take mineral oil while taking Colace unless your doctor tells you to. Alert your doctor if you do not have a bowel movement within three days of taking Colace. You should also report any side effects.

Colace and Dialysis

Because, as a dialysis patient, you most likely have to restrict fluids, you should ask your physician about how much water to drink with your stool softener. Most dialysis patients are on low-salt diets and as such, you may want to avoid the use of Colace because it contains sodium. Your nephrologist will tell you if you can use it anyways, or if there is another similar stool softener you should use. Never take Colace without discussing it with your physician.

Senna Facts

Senna is an herbal remedy for constipation. The senna leaf can be made into a capsule or you can use it to make tea. Senna is a popular laxative for the elderly and pregnant women. Commercial forms of senna laxatives are available such as brand name Senokot. Do not use senna if you have a bowel obstruction or suffer from a bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Never take senna without first consulting your physician.

Senna and Dialysis

Senna can lead to low potassium levels in the blood, or hypokalemia. As a dialysis patient, you are probably already on a low-potassium diet. A sudden decrease in blood potassium can affect your heartbeat. Dialysis patients on blood thinners, such as Coumadin, should also avoid the use of senna. Senna can cause your bowels to move too quickly and affect the natural production of vitamin K, leading to prolonged bleeding. Never take senna without first consulting your physician.


If you are a dialysis patient and are experiencing constipation, talk with your nephrologist about which laxative is best for you. The needs of dialysis patients can vary. You can also ask your dialysis nurse, pharmacist or renal dietitian if you have any questions. Never take any medicine without first consulting your physician.

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