Constipation is often associated with straining, hard stools, infrequent bowel movements, and feelings of incomplete evacuation. Ideally, relief can be obtained through dietary and lifestyle changes. However, when these measures do not provide relief, many people turn to laxatives- osmotic laxatives in particular. There are many different kinds of laxatives available and they operate differently. Despite the fact that most are casually advertised on television, side effects are common.
What are Osmotic Laxatives?
Osmotic laxatives stimulate the intestines to absorb excessive amounts of water from the body. The process is slow, sometimes taking days to affect stool consistency. It basically makes diarrhea of the stool for easy passage. The danger is that fluid is pulled from the rest of the body and can cause severe dehydration and depletion of electrolytes. That's not at all, gas can build up while you wait for the laxative to take effect (remember, it could be up to a few days); this can cause bloating and cramping.
Some of the names that you will see on the market include:
- Lactulose: Duphalac®, Kristalose®, and Actilax® (Lactulose)
- Sorbitol: Sorbilax®
- Polyethylene Glycol Compounds: MiraLAX®
- Magnesium Hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia): Phillip's® Milk of Magnesia, Dulcolax® Milk of Magnesia, and Freelax®
Be sure to thoroughly investigate any laxatives before trying them. It's a good idea to consider that products operate by dehydrating other parts of your body.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.