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Laxatives Explained – Part 1:

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

Are you wondering what laxative to pick? How they work? And why you should maybe opt for a colonic if your suffering from constipation? After reading this four part series you will know all the answers.

Constipation is such a common issue for people to suffer with. Unfortunately it can be a chronic condition for some, causing them to have to rely on the use of laxatives in order to keep them comfortable and allow for them to have a bowel movement.

There are many different laxatives you will find in pharmacies today, the majority of them being available over the counter. These laxatives can be grouped based on their mechanism of action (how they work). There are three groups of laxatives: Osmotic Laxatives (Stool softeners), Bulk forming Laxatives and Stimulant Laxatives.

Osmotic Laxatives (stool softeners) are those that draw water into the stools. When stools are hard, they become difficult to pass. Stool softeners draw water into the stools which softens them and makes them easier to pass. By drawing water into the stools, it also causes them to bulk up. The increased mass then puts a slight pressure on the intestinal wall and by neuromuscular pathways (messages sent from the muscles to the brain) this triggers the bowel to contract, moving the stools along the intestinal tract allowing for their removal.

Some osmotic laxatives, such as lactulose, are made of a sugar, which when broken down in the intestine can cause unwanted side effects such as gas and bloating. This type of laxative can take up to three days to have an effect.

Bulk Forming Laxatives do what they say on the tin, they bulk up or increase the weight of the stools. These laxatives are made from materials that are not broken down in the gut, therefore increasing the mass of the stool. The increased stool mass puts pressure on the walls of the intestine, stimulating the bowel to contract and move the mass along until it is expelled. With these laxatives you should start with a low dose, drinking plenty of water and increase slowly over a few days. By starting with too high a dose than what your body is used to, it can cause bloating, gas or cramping. These laxatives can take a couple of days before they have an effect.

Stimulant laxatives stimulate the bowel. They irritate the intestinal wall and trigger the muscles in the wall of the intestine to contract. They also influence the secretions in the large intestine by inhibiting absorption and by increasing the leakiness of the intestinal walls which causes secretion of water and electrolytes. This causes an increase in water in the large intestine which softens stools, and due to the increase in the contents in the large intestine, it causes an increase in defecation (discharge of faeces from the body). Stimulant laxatives are usually taken at night and work after 8-12 hours. Side effects can include cramping, nausea or diarrhoea.

Read the next part of the series that explains each laxative you may find in a pharmacy and how they compare to colon hydrotherapy. This will show you how colonic treatments can work in a similar way, giving immediate relief without any unwanted side effects.

Click here to book your colon hydrotherapy session today.


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