Getting more fibre, fluids and exercise should generally be enough to relieve constipation. But if you’re still constipated after making these changes, consider a laxative. There are many safe, effective options that work in a variety of ways. As with all medicines, laxatives have side effects and may interact with other medications you’re taking, so it’s best to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what type may be best for you. Always read & follow the label.

Here are the main laxative types:

Bulk forming laxatives

These laxatives contain fibre, which brings more water into your intestines, forming softer, bulkier stools that are easier to pass. Common medicinal ingredients include psyllium fibre or inulin.

Common examples of this type include:
Metamucil®, Benefibre®

Generally available in powder, capsules, wafer forms. They usually work within 12 hours to 3 days.

Stimulant laxatives

These laxatives stimulate the nerves and muscles of the intestines to make the stool pass more quickly through the colon. Common active ingredients include bisacodyl or sennosides.

Common examples of this type include:
Dulcolax®, Senokot® Ex-lax®

Generally available in tablets, suppositories, syrup forms. Usually, tablet formula provides overnight relief within 6 to 12 hours. Suppositories usually work within 15 to 60 minutes.

Emollients and stool softeners

These laxatives soften stools by reducing surface tension and increase the amount of water in the stool, making it easier to pass. Common active ingredients include docusate sodium or docusate calcium.

Common examples of this type include:
DulcoComfort®, Colace®

Generaly available in gel capsule,drops, syrup forms. They usually work within 1 to 5 days.

Osmotic laxatives

These laxatives help retain water in the bowel, which softens stools and increases the frequency of bowel movements. Common active ingredients include PEG 3350 or magnesium.

Common examples of this type include:
Lax-A-Day®, RestoraLAX®, Phillips® Milk of Magnesia

Generally available in powder, liquid or tablet forms. They usually work from half an hour to 4 days depending on the nature of your constipation and the product you take.

Doctor's warning

Most laxatives should only be taken on a short-term basis. As soon as you’re back on track, stop taking them. If your constipation is due to a medical reason, or medication use, you may need to take them longer. Don’t exceed recommended dosages unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Any long-term laxative use needs to be under medical supervision.

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