Laxatives For Constipation (cont.)
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
- Laxatives definition and constipation facts
- What is constipation?
- What are the causes of constipation?
- What medications cause constipation?
- What natural and home remedies help cure constipation?
- What foods naturally help cure constipation?
- What types of over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives help cure constipation?
- Pros and precautions for using bulk-forming laxatives
- Pros and precautions for using stool softeners (emollient laxatives)
- Pros and precautions for using lubricant laxatives
- Pros and precautions for using stimulant laxatives
- Pros and precautions for using saline laxatives and osmotic laxatives
- Pros and precautions for using enemas and suppositories
- What natural laxatives are safe for infants, toddlers, and children?
- Are laxatives safe to take during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?
- When should a doctor be consulted for constipation?
- Are laxatives safe to take for weight loss?
- Find a local Gastroenterologist in your town
Pros and precautions for using stool softeners (emollient laxatives)
Stool softeners, called emollient laxatives, prevent hardening of the feces by adding moisture to the stool. The active ingredient in most stool softeners is a medicine called docusate. Agents containing docusate do not by themselves stimulate or increase the number of bowel movements. They are used more to prevent constipation than to treat it.
Stool softeners are commonly recommended for individuals who should avoid straining while defecating, including those:
- Who are recovering from abdominal, pelvic, or rectal surgery, childbirth, or heart attack
- With severe high blood pressure or abdominal hernias
- With painful hemorrhoids and/or anal fissures
Softening the stool in these affected individuals can help reduce pain during defecation.
Stool softeners available OTC include:
- Pharmacy or store-branded products containing docusate
Some preparations (for example, Peri-Colace) combine a stool softener with a stimulant laxative to activate bowel movements.
What are the pros for using stool softeners?
Stool softeners are generally safe and well tolerated.
What are the precautions for using stool softeners?
They should not be combined with mineral oil, a lubricant laxative, because stool softeners may increase the absorption and toxicity of mineral oil. Mineral oil droplets absorbed into the body can deposit and cause inflammation in the lymph glands, liver, and spleen.
Pros and precautions for using lubricant laxatives
Mineral oil (liquid petrolatum) coats and softens stool. Like stool softeners, mineral oil is used by patients who need to avoid straining (for example, after hernia repair, hemorrhoid surgery, heart attacks, and childbirth).
What are the precautions for using lubricant laxatives?
- Mineral oil should be avoided in individuals taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin). Mineral oil decreases the absorption of vitamin K (important in forming clotting factors in the blood) from the intestines. The decreased absorption of vitamin K in patients taking warfarin can potentially lead to "over-thinning" of the blood and increasing the risk of excessive bleeding.
- Mineral oil should not be taken during pregnancy since it may inhibit vitamin absorption and decrease the availability of vitamin K to the fetus.
- Mineral oil can cause pneumonia if it leaks into the lungs. Leakage of secretions and other contents from the mouth and the esophagus into the lungs is called aspiration. Certain individuals (for example, the very young, the elderly, stroke victims, and those with swallowing difficulties) are prone to aspirate, especially while lying down. Therefore, mineral oil should not be given at bedtime or to individuals who are prone to aspirate.
- Mineral oil should only be used for short periods of time. A significant absorption of mineral oil into the body can occur if used repeatedly over prolonged periods.
Learn more about: Coumadin
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