Have a hard time pooping? Chances are you may have tried laxatives. While they may seem to work in the short term, not all laxatives are safe for long-term use. Frequent use of certain laxatives may lead to dependency on the laxative instead of our bowels to get things moving, which may lead to decreased bowel function. Yep, you read that right. Laxatives may make it harder for your body to poop without help.
Keep reading to learn more about why fiber is the better way to make you poop, naturally without any long-term use issues.
What are Laxatives and What Do They Do?
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Laxatives are used to help us poop by relieving or preventing constipation. They contain chemical ingredients that help you poop by increasing the bulk of stool and/or frequency of your number twos.
Most laxatives can be purchased over the counter, including:
- Lactulose, macrogol, and polyethylene glycol which draw water from the body and into your bowel to soften your poop making it easier to pass;
- Bisacodyl, senna, and sodium picosulfate help the stomach muscles move the poop; and
- Docusate increases the amount of water in your stool and stimulates the muscles that line the gut to ease poop out of the body.
Types of Laxatives
Laxatives come in different types: pills, capsules, liquids, powders, suppositories, and enemas. Depending on the laxative type, some are more convenient to take like pills, while others are a bit uncomfortable to use like suppositories and enemas. Let’s talk more about these types of laxatives:
Lubricant laxatives make our stools oily and slippery. These laxatives contain mineral oil that adds a glossy layer to the walls of the intestines to prevent the stool from drying. Mineral oilis a chemical substance made from natural crude petroleum oil that is a colorless, odorless oily liquid that is unflavored.
These laxatives are taken by mouth. Lubricant laxatives can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins so you should not take these laxatives on an empty stomach and not continue taking them past 7 days unless your doctor advises otherwise.
It may take up to 6 to 8 hours to poop after taking this type of laxative.
Emollient Laxatives (Stool Softeners)
Emollient laxatives are often referred to as stool softeners. They are sold over the counter and are usually taken before going to bed at night. They are taken by mouth and work by attracting more water into the stool to make it easier to poop. The main active ingredient in these stool softeners is Docusate sodium which works to allow more water and fats into stools to make them softer.
Usually, it takes a few days for emollient laxatives to take effect, and these are generally used by those who are recovering from surgery like women post-childbirth or individuals who are suffering from hemorrhoids. They are intended to be a short-term fix.
Osmotic and Hyperosmolar Laxatives
Osmoticlaxatives draw water into the stool, making stools softer, more frequent, and easier to pass bowel movements. They do this slightly differently than the other laxatives mentioned above. Osmotic laxatives draw water from the wall of the colon to the inside of the colon. (If you think back to high school science, this is the process of osmosis hence the name.) This helps soften stools and makes them easier to pass. You need to drink a lot of water when using this type of laxative for it to be effective and lessen the chances of gas and cramps. Also, generally intended for short-term use.
Prescription laxativesare used to treat digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. This type of laxative increases intestinal fluid secretion, which softens the stools and stimulates bowel movements.
While prescription laxatives promote regular bowel movement, it has a risk of causing diarrhea.
From the name itself, stimulant laxative works by stimulating the lines of our intestine, speeding up the stool's movement through the colon. This also increases the stool's water levels. Stimulant laxatives are used mainly by those who are in need of instant relief from constipation. These laxatives must also be used with caution and not be used regularly as they may cause stomach cramps and diarrhea. They may also weaken the body's natural ability to poop and cause laxative dependency.
Side Effects and Risk of Laxatives
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Bloating, gas, and abdominal pain are the most commonly reported side effects when taking laxatives. It is always recommended to follow the doctor’s recommendations when it comes to dosage and frequency as taking laxatives comes with health risks like:
Interaction with medications
Laxatives can interact with some medications like antibiotics, and heart and bone medications. It is always best to consult your doctor or pharmacist when trying out a laxative and don’t go beyond the recommended dosage.
Complicating health conditions
If treating constipation due to bowel obstruction or appendicitis, using laxatives can be dangerous as they can lessen the colon’s natural ability to contract and may worsen constipation.
Precautions for pregnant women and children
Laxatives are not advisable as a treatment for children under six years old unless with a doctor’s advice and while stool softeners are safe for pregnant women, stimulant laxatives may cause harm.
Dependence on laxatives
Frequent use of certain laxatives may lead to dependency on the laxative instead of our bowels to get things moving, which may lead to decreased bowel function. Yep, you read that right. Laxatives may make it harder for your body to poop without help.
Switch to a Natural Approach
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Yes, there are better options for getting to a pleasant pooping paradise. Regular bowel movements can be achieved with the following lifestyle changes:
- Eating more fiber. Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, and vegetables, should be part of our go-to for treating our bodiesto have regular bowel movements. Fiber increases the size and softens the stool so it will be easier to pass to have the same effect as laxatives without the concerns listed above. In fact, USDA recommends that adults eat 38 grams of daily dietary fiber for men while 25 grams for women. You can get fiber from eating veggie greens or from an all-natural fiber supplement like Bonny.
- Regular hydration. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. When the food we eat reaches the large intestine or colon and if there is not enough water in the body, the large intestine absorbs the water from our food waste making our stools hard and difficult to pass.
- Get moving. Regular exercise helps relieve constipation by lowering the time it takes food to move through the large intestine. The movement stimulates the natural squeezing of intestine muscles and this help move stools out quickly.
Poop Naturally with Bonny
Bonny is a custom blend, fiber powder supplement that helps treat constipation. Taking Bonny is a more natural approach compared to using laxatives and possibly creating a dependency. Bonny is a proprietary blend of psyllium husk and prebiotic inulin that help soften the stool for a smooth trip through your colon and to the toilet. Prebiotic inulin also acts as food for the good gut bacteria in your gut.
Bonny tastes amazing because it is flavored with real fruit. Bonus: the formulation is vegan, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free. Bonny is available in amazing flavors like Amplified Apple Pie, Mixed Ripe Berries, Chocolate Coffee Swirl, and Strawberry Serenity.
As always, we wish you pleasant poops.