Laxatives For Constipation (cont.)
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
In this Article
What over-the-counter preparations can be used for constipation?
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Laxatives are medicines that increase the frequency and ease of passing stool. Many types of laxatives are available over-the-counter (OTC) for the relief of mild, occasional constipation. If the constipation becomes moderate to severe or does not respond to OTC products, a doctor should be consulted.
Most OTC laxatives are safe, effective, and well tolerated. There are distinct classes of laxatives, which function differently and have varying degrees of effectiveness and potential side effects.
Bulk-forming laxatives are the most commonly recommended initial treatments for constipation. Bulk-forming laxatives may work as quickly as 12 hours or take as long as three days to be effective. Some bulk-forming laxatives are derived from natural sources such as agar, psyllium, kelp (alginates), and plant gum. Others are synthetic cellulose compounds such as methylcellulose and carboxymethylcellulose. Natural and synthetic bulk-forming laxatives act similarly. They dissolve or swell in the intestines, lubricate and soften the stool, and make the passage of stool easier and more frequent.
Examples of bulk-forming laxatives are methylcellulose (Citrucel) psyllium hydrophilic mucilloid (Metamucil), polycarbophil (FiberCon), guar gum (Benefiber) and malt soup extract (Maltsupex). Many of these agents are available as powders and are mixed with fluids. Fruit drinks, fruit juice, and soft drinks mask the gritty taste of these laxatives better than water. Some are available as wafers, which are designed to be eaten with a separate beverage.
The benefits of bulk-forming laxatives are:
Precautions for using bulk-forming laxatives.
Reviewed by Jay W. Marks, MD on 9/14/2011
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