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Use of Laxatives

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For some, constipation is a taboo subject. Considering it a hideous toilet matter, they prefer not to discuss it. Quietly, they prefer to use laxatives in the form of medications even before discussing with healthcare providers. Laxatives are a favorite amongst another set of people who firmly believe that it helps in controlling, reducing weight. Wish they knew the hidden dangers of long-term use of laxatives.

Read on and ascertain more information about laxatives. Learn about the different types of laxatives, their benefits and dangers. Before choosing a particular laxative, it helps to know how it works differently though the same result can be achieved. Check why laxatives do not actually contribute to weight reduction. Find all about foods that can work as natural laxatives.

Bowel movements, weight reduction and laxatives

It is a popular belief that a daily bowel movement is a must and signifies normal digestive system functioning. But bowel pattern can change.Bowel patterns are subject to changes and are influenced by one's solid intake, fluid intake, exercise, age etc. Stress and travel too can influence bowel pattern. An occasional deviation from a normal bowel pattern is acceptable.

The misconception about not able to have a daily bowel movement, a fear if bowel movement frequency is too low results in self-medicating with laxatives. But medically, absence of a daily bowel movement will not cause physical discomfort but only mental distress - a constipated feeling.

Laxatives are a favorite amongst those who are desperate to get thinner. They use it because they believe weight reduction is possible by increasing bowel movements. But laxatives do not aid in burning fat, do not stop calories from being absorbed, only a lot of water is removed from the body. 'Water loss' makes the user feel 'light' and 'empty', which in turn is misconstrued for 'weight loss'.

About laxatives

Laxatives are also known as purgatives or aperients. Laxatives are available in the form of foods, compounds or drugs. Its inherent quality helps induce bowel movements, loosen the stool, causing the body to eliminate waste.

Laxatives come in various forms - tablets, capsules or granules, foods such as bran, syrups, powders which can be made into a drink by adding water or fruit juice, enema and suppositories.

There are five different types of drug store laxatives which are available both over-the-counter and with health care provider's prescription. Laxatives are also available as dietary supplements. These are available at the chemist, supermarket and health food stores.

Bulk forming agents

  • Oral form clears constipation in 1-3 days.

  • It contains fiber or fiber like products.

  • Contributes to increase fiber in someone with a low fiber diet.

  • Works by simply bulking up the waste.

  • The stools become larger, heavier and softer.

  • Eliminating stools becomes easier.

  • Is the safest laxative to use.

  • Must be taken with plenty of water or it can cause intestinal obstruction.

  • Most suitable for people who suffer from mild, chronic constipation.

  • Recommended for pregnant women to relieve constipation.

  • Popular examples are bran, fybogel, celevac and normaco.

Stool softening laxatives

  • 1-4 days of regular use of oral form is required for best results.

  • It softens the stool in the intestine

  • It works by drawing water from the tissues surrounding the bowel.

  • It is safe as the ingredients do not stimulate bowel movement or irritate the intestine walls.

  • It is effective in preventing constipation rather than treating it.

  • User should increase intake of water and avoid use of aspirin, mineral oils and lubricant laxatives.

  • Recommended for patients who should not strain while passing stools.

  • Most suitable for heart patients, people with irritable bowel syndrome, piles or anal fissures and those who have undergone surgery, childbirth etc.

Osmotic laxatives

  • Oral form works in 1-3 hours.
  • It softens the stool by drawing water into the colon.
  • Helps make stools softer and easier to pass.
  • Not recommended for regular use.
  • Examples are lactulose syrup, magnesium salts, phosphate enemas, macrogols.

Stimulant laxatives

  • Oral form takes 6-10 hours to work.

  • Effective when used on a short-term basis.

  • Long-term use makes body dependant for normal bowel movement.

  • Induces bowel movements by increasing the contraction of muscles in the intestines.

  • Most suited to treat chronic constipation.

  • Examples include aloe, cascara, senna compounds, bisacodyl, and castor oil

Saline laxatives

  • Produces results after half-hour to three hours after consumption.

  • Mostly used before surgery in order to empty the bowels.

  • Works by flooding the intestines with water.

  • Also used to treat acute constipation.

  • Strictly not for those with impaired kidney function, congestive heart failure, and high blood pressure.

  • Examples include milk of magnesia, Epsom salt and fleet phospho-soda.

Use of laxatives

Though primarily used to treat constipation, laxatives have other multiple uses as well.

For pregnant women: Hormonal changes during pregnancy can result in constipation. In order to slow down bowel movements, laxatives are likely to be prescribed. The recommended dosage should be strictly adhered to for effective results.

After childbirth: During the postpartum period due to lack of exercise and or dietary changes, the mother is likely to be constipated. Laxatives are recommended to induce bowel movements.

To treat under active bowels: In spite of drinking plenty of water and eating a high fiber diet, some individuals may become constipated. Termed as 'functional' or 'primary' constipation or 'underactive bowels', laxatives are the best option to treat this effectively.

Post surgery use: Post surgery if the situation is such that straining should be absolutely avoided, health care providers recommend use of laxatives.

Before physical examination: For certain physical examination, it is important for the bowel to remain empty. Laxatives will be given beforehand to ensure that the bowel is empty.

Fight constipation due to medicines: Intake of certain medicines can result in constipation. For example, certain types of painkiller medicines, antacids and antidepressants can cause a side effect in the form of constipation.

For patients with medical conditions: It may not be advisable for individuals with certain medical conditions to strain as the conditions may worsen. Health care providers recommend use of laxatives for those with heart disease, hernia, hemorrhoids, high blood pressure and stroke patients.

Dangers of laxative

If used correctly, laxatives are absolutely safe. Occasional help from a laxative is normally safe in healthy people; however, prolonged consumption may cause problems.When individuals fall prey to false statements which boast about the slimming effects that it can bring forth, laxatives can have disastrous effects.

Highly enticed by a desire to quick slimming, fast weight reduction technique sans change in diet, or a strict exercise regimen, excessive volumes of laxatives in the form of drugs are consumed every day. In most cases, the individual may also suffer from eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia or binge eating. Taking an overdose, or taking for the wrong purpose can be very dangerous and carry significant side-effects. Its implication varies depending on the type of laxative used, the duration and the dosage consumed. Here are common complications as a result of laxative abuse.

Abdominal pain: Those who use laxatives excessively are most likely to develop severe abdominal pain.

Constipation: Repeated use of laxatives actually causes constipation. As a result, the individual will naturally increase the dosage, which in turn will only worsen the problem.

Dehydration: Excessive use of laxatives causes fluid loss to intestines. Dehydration can result in electrolyte imbalance in the body and a series of health problems including nausea, vomiting, fainting and in extreme cases coma and in extreme cases multiple-organ failure.

Psychological effect: Over a period of time, the individual can become mentally dependant on laxatives. Almost addictive to its use can make it difficult to quit.

Risk of colon cancer: There is enough evidence that suggests those who excessively use laxatives are at high risk of developing colon cancer.

Bleeding: Those who are addicted to using stimulant-type laxatives can develop blood in their stools. Frequent loss of blood can lead to anemia.

Impaired bowel function: Those who are addicted to using stimulant-type laxatives can develop permanent impairment of bowel function.

Chronic diarrhea: Using laxatives excessively will over a period of time make the individual lose control over rectum.

Natural laxatives

Realizing the benefits of natural laxatives and understanding the harsh side effects of OTC laxatives, many people are switching over to natural laxatives. Many foods can be considered natural laxatives. Besides providing relief from constipation, it has other benefits too. It is absolutely safe, has no side effect, very effective, improves energy levels, improves digestion, and works well in absorption of nutrients.

  • Adults and children can use natural laxatives.
  • Natural laxatives promote normal bowel movements.
  • Natural laxatives help relieve constipation and strengthen the colon.
  • Aids in the elimination of waste and toxins from the body.
  • Most suited for better and easier bowel movement.
  • It is absolutely safe and gentle to use even for a long duration of time.
  • It has no side effects like stomach cramps or diarrhea.
  • Natural laxatives do not cause weight gain even if used for a longer time.

The best natural laxatives are those foods that are full of fiber. Making these foods as part of daily diet is effective in fighting constipation. Food rich in soluble fiber is commonly known to act as a natural laxative. Soluble fiber helps to soften the stool because it rapidly absorbs water.

and prune juice is one of the best-known natural laxatives. Even a small amount of prune juice is high in potassium, Vitamin A and iron and is extremely high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Drinking a glass of prune juice will take care of constipation problems.

Triphala, alfalfa, aloe gel, cassia pulp, cascara sagrada, rose leaves, castor oil, grapes, figs, apricots, turnips, endive, watercress, coconut, avocados, rhubarb, soybean, aloe vera, chicory, coffee, dates, dandelion leaves, dried apricots, figs, flaxseed, mangoes, molasses, olives, papayas, parsley, peach, pears, pineapple, walnuts.

Including natural laxatives as part of regular diet is the best way to reduce dependency on OTC laxatives. A high fiber diet plus lots of water plus exercise plus a relaxed mind sans a sedentary life style is the best formula to get rid of an annoying disorder, namely constipation and to live a healthy life.

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