When you start talking constipation, the same questions will often crop up

How often should I be going to the bathroom?

Everyone’s different. What constitutes normal bowel movements for one person isn’t the same for another. However, anything between three times a day and three times a week can be considered “normal” for most people.

Do women suffer from constipation more often than men?

Yes. One of the main reasons is that the hormones released during pregnancy and/or menopause can relax the muscles in your bowel. So this means your stools don’t move as easily.

Do laxatives help with weight loss?

Categorically NO — they are meant to treat constipation and do not help with weight loss. Taking a laxative where there is no need for constipation relief will result in health consequences such as disturbance of electrolyte and mineral balances, dehydration, laxative dependency and other complications. Please talk to your doctor if you have any concerns regarding the use of laxatives.

Do laxatives work less effectively if used too often?

Do not take more than the recommended daily dose. Overuse or extended use of any laxatives can cause dependence for bowel function. Do not take for more than a week without consulting your doctor. If your constipation symptoms go on for too long, or you experience sudden constipation with blood in your stool, see your doctor.

Is laxative use habit-forming?

Not when used as directed. However, overusing laxatives leads to dependency because your colon stops reacting to usual doses of laxatives with the result that increasingly larger amounts of laxatives may be needed to produce bowel movements.

Can children use laxatives?

A lot depends on what’s causing the problem. If adding more fibre to your child’s diet doesn’t work, your doctor might suggest a stool softener or other type of laxative. Never give your child a laxative or enema without the doctor’s advice and instructions on the proper dose.

How often can you use laxatives?

Usually over-the- counter laxatives should only be used for short-term relief of occasional constipation. If using a laxative every day for a week does not result in a bowel movement, see your doctor.

You may be prescribed laxatives on a long-term basis to counter the side effects of some medications or medical conditions. But this should be under strict medical supervision, and after discussions with your doctor about when to start and stop treatment.