How Do Other Laxatives Work?

Reviewed on 2/4/2022

How do other laxatives work?

Other laxatives are medications used to treat constipation. Laxatives that do not fall into any specific class of laxatives are categorized as other laxatives. Each of the other laxatives works in unique ways to loosen the stools and stimulate bowel movement. 

Other laxatives include the following:

  • Castor oil: Castor oil is an irritant/stimulant laxative made from a plant. Castor oil’s laxative effects are from ricinoleic acid, a fatty acid released when intestinal enzymes break down castor oil. Ricinoleic acid reduces the absorption of fluid and electrolytes and stimulates peristalsis, a series of intestinal muscle contractions that make bowel contents move.
  • Lubiprostone: Lubiprostone is a medication used to treat chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C), and opioid-induced constipation. Lubiprostone works by activating the chloride channels in the epithelial cells of the intestinal lining, which increases intestinal fluid secretion and bowel motility.
  • Magnesium hydroxide: Magnesium hydroxide, also known as milk of magnesia, is used to treat constipation and acid indigestion. Magnesium hydroxide is an osmotic laxative that draws water into the intestinal tract, distending the colon and enabling peristalsis and bowel movement. In the stomach it works as an antacid, reacting with hydrochloric acid and neutralizing it by increasing the pH level.
  • Malt soup extract: Malt soup extract is an extract of malt from barley grains, used as a bulk-forming laxative. Bulk-forming laxatives contain fiber that absorbs water and adds bulk and water to the stools, enabling easy passage of stools through the intestines.
  • Sterculia: Sterculia, also known as Karaya gum, is extracted from the Sterculia urens tree and purified for use as a laxative. Sterculia is a fiber-rich bulk-forming laxative.


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What are the uses of other laxatives?

Other laxatives may be administered orally as tablets, capsules, chewable tablets, granules, liquids, solutions or suspensions. Most of the other laxatives are available over the counter except for lubiprostone, a prescription drug.

Other laxatives are used in conditions that include the following:

  • Castor oil:
    • Constipation
    • Colonic evacuation in adults, prior to medical procedures that require clear colon
  • Lubiprostone:
    • Chronic idiopathic constipation in adults
    • Irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C) in women aged 18 years and above
    • Opioid-induced constipation in adults with chronic noncancer pain
  • Magnesium hydroxide:
    • Constipation
    • Acid indigestion
    • Malt soup extract:
    • Constipation
  • Sterculia:
    • Constipation

What are side effects of other laxatives?

Side effects of other laxatives vary with each drug. A few of the most common side effects may include:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these products do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.


Pancreatitis is inflammation of an organ in the abdomen called the pancreas. See Answer

What are names of some of the other laxatives?

Generic and brand names of some of the other laxatives include:

  • Amitiza
  • castor oil
  • Emulsoil
  • Fleet Castor Oil
  • lubiprostone
  • magnesium hydroxide
  • malt soup extract
  • Milk of Magnesia
  • sterculia

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