The term Laxative is very familiar to common folks, and it is widely known how and why they are helpful for many people all over the globe. Laxatives are drugs that relieve people from constipation by stimulating or facilitating the bowel movements, which can be accomplished by increasing the diameter of the stool, softening the stool or lubricating the intestinal tract.
Laxatives come in various forms, and shapes like pills, capsules, liquids, foods, gums, etc. with most of them prescribed for short-term uses only.
Now, laxatives are of many kinds like stool softeners, stimulant laxatives, lubricant laxatives and many more, which are needed as per the requirement of a person.
Many people suffer from constipation which is a condition characterized by irregular bowel movements that are painful or difficult to pass out with. It can also result in other physical problems like back pain, abdominal pain or abdominal bloating.
This can be a result of various reasons like low fiber in diets, side effects of medication, narrowing or blockage of intestines, hormonal disturbances, etc. So people choose laxatives to help themselves to get out of such a difficult medical situation and relax their body.
The first kind of Laxative is the Bulk-forming Laxative. Bulk-forming laxatives are very much different from the other kind of laxatives but are similar to stool softeners which helps the bowels to retain water which makes it easier to pass through the intestine.
Unlike some laxatives like the stimulant laxative it does not stimulate the nerve that speeds up the movement of bowels through the intestines nor does it lubricates the stool like lubricant laxatives.
Bulk-forming Laxative usually takes 12 to 72 hours to work. Many people prefer this because there is a rather gradual improvement of constipation symptoms and are usually preferable to other types of laxatives.
How Do These Bulk-Forming Laxatives Work?
Bulk-forming Laxatives have an osmotic laxatives mechanism of action, as they add solvable fiber to the stool which causes the stool to absorb more water and as a result creates large and softer stools.
The larger but softer stool helps to trigger the bowel to contract and move the stools out from the intestines, relieving the person from irregular bowel problems.
The fecal matter retains water as it passes through the intestine making it easier to release out from it. Such common laxatives are Psyllium, Polycarbophil, and Methylcellulose. The bulk-forming laxatives mechanism of action of the various bulking agents depends on the drug a person is prescribed to take.
Eating an abundance of bulk-forming fiber, help in regular bowel movements, thus preventing constipation and reducing risks of colon cancer and hemorrhoids.
Fruits like bananas, kiwifruits, apples, pears are fiber-rich fruits which act as good agents of laxation.
Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and baked potatoes are also known to carry a significant amount of roughage or fiber which acts as effective agents to laxate the abdominal stools. Other than that whole grains, nuts, legumes like beans, peas and lentils are also effective for such needs.
A diet in bulk-forming laxatives contraindications fiber can also beneficial for bad-tempered bowel syndrome. They are used as a fiber supplement for patients whose diets contain low fiber count and work as a good bulk-forming agent’s examples.
Examples Of The Bulk-Forming Laxatives
Bulk-forming Laxatives are of many types, some examples are:
1. Methylcellulose (Citrucel)
These are better tolerated than Psyllium and thus preferred more. A person who cannot do well with Psyllium takes Methylcellulose with water.
2. Psyllium Hydrophilic Million (Metamucil)
This dosage varies from person to person depending on whether the preparations contain sugar or are sugar-free. These must be taken with water, or else they may cause obstruction.
3. Polycarbophil (Fibercon)
It is taken with a lot of water preferably two glasses. It is available in powder, liquid and also in a chewing form. The chewing tablet must be chewed well before swallowing. However, overuse of this can cause damage to the nerves or muscles of the intestines.
4. Guar Gum (Benefiber)
It is a natural soluble fiber which helps in absorbing water from your intestines to form softer and bulkier stools.
5. Malt soup extract (Maltsupex)
It is preferred more for infants and small children.
All the examples mentioned above of laxatives are available for medicinal purposes in pills, powders, capsules. They are preferably taken with fruit drinks, fruit juices or soft drinks, which masks the gritty and strong taste of the laxatives better than water. Some can also be taken with fruits, wafers as they are designed to eat separately.
Bulk-forming Laxatives must be taken when a person may notice an increase in flatulence (the state of having gas, often with bad odor, trapped in the digestive system or released frequently) in the digestive system and abdomen bloating.
However this settles down after a few days but if not it causes severe discomfort and bloating, without doing much to clear the abdominal stool, which gets stuck in the gut. In that case, you may think of taking a laxative to treat your discomfort and clear your digestive system.
People choose to have laxatives when they have difficulty in passing more than three stools a week or have lumpy or hard stools, which indicate they have constipation.
Bulk-forming laxatives are the easiest form and have the gentlest of effects on the bowel and digestive system and have proved to be effective.
Bulk-forming laxatives onset of action for Bulk-forming laxatives takes place within 12-24 hours, but their full effect usually takes 2 or 3 days to develop, it doesn’t provide immediate relief.
It takes a while for the laxative to process and apply its effect over the intestinal feces, varying from people to people and their digestive condition for giving them relief from constipation.
Now let’s talk about, Osmotic laxatives. These types of laxative stimulate and encourage bowel movements by drawing water into the bowel from nearby tissues thereby softening the stool.
The process is slow, sometimes taking days to affect stool consistency. In simple words, it extracts water from the rest of the body and tissues and mixes it with the stool stuck in the bowel which results in softer stool which is easier to pass.
It is always recommended to drink good quantities of water to keep the body hydrated if a person has been prescribed with an osmotic laxative.
However, using osmotic laxatives has a severe risk of dehydration of the person’s body because a lot of water is extracted from the other tissues.
That’s not all, as gas can also develop in the process and can cause bloating and cramps. Some bulk-forming laxatives examples are, Lactulose, Polyethylene Glycol Compounds, and Magnesium Hydroxide, etc.
A solution of polyethylene glycol, sodium sulfate, sodium chloride and potassium chloride is used for complete colonic cleansing before gastrointestinal endoscopic procedures, and smaller doses may be used for the treatment of chronic constipation. It does not cause abdominal distensions and cramps like Lactose.
Magnesium compounds such as Epsom salts is a common agent and is deployed very commonly during this process and is poorly absorbed by the gut to retain the water in the intestinal lumen. It takes about 30 minutes to 3 hours to fully apply its effects over the intestinal stools.
Another important compound Lactulose is a disaccharide of fructose and galactose, which when passes through the abdominal system, bacteria cleaves onto it and gets fermented into lactic and acetic acids.
These two acids, in turn, favor the retaining of water but also increase the fecal bulk.
This is highly recommended to consult a doctor before using osmotic laxatives to relief a person’s constipation.
It is very much recommended for everyone to consult a doctor or physician before one chooses a laxative to cure any bowel or constipation related syndrome, as using laxatives in a wrong manner may result into even more chronic ailment.
Once consulted laxatives can be very effective for the bowel and digesting related issues which people normally face and deliver them relief and stop the discomfort.
There are many types of such laxatives which a person may use as per his or her needs and help oneself. A healthy diet consisting required minerals and fibers will help furthermore.
A Professional Naturopath, Yoga Teacher & Therapist at Arogya Yogshala Dhanbad. I have studied in Uttrakhand Sanskrit University and have been teaching Yoga and Naturopathy for the last 6 years. I believe nature has a cure for everything and Yoga means addition – the addition of energy, strength, and beauty to body, mind and soul. I love to share health facts, natural home remedies and best yoga asanas that can make your life easier and happier.