How Laxatives Work and the Dangers of Laxative Abuse

Occasionally many people feel they need a laxative to have a normal bowel movement.    But most don’t understand how laxatives work, how to choose the right laxative or the potential dangers of using laxatives incorrectly.

If a laxative is needed, the doctors at Colon and Rectal Specialists recommend a bulk laxative like Metamucil or Citrucel.   Made from a natural form of fiber they work gently by causing the stool to absorb water making stools bulky and easier to pass through the bowel.   Bulk laxatives do not contain stimulants or cause the abdominal cramping often experienced with other types of laxatives.

Common stimulant based laxatives like Ex-Lax, Senokot work by speeding up muscle movement in the colon causing the intestines to contract and push down on the bowel.    If used too frequently the muscles of the bowel become weakened making it difficult for the colon and bowel to function properly or produce normal bowel movements.   This can lead to laxative dependency and laxative abuse.

Long term laxative abuse is serious and can cause irritable bowel syndrome, damage of the gastrointestinal tract, heart arrhymthias, kidney and colon failure.  Some long term laxative abusers may even require surgery to correct the damage.

While using a laxative every now and then won’t hurt you, it is best to keep bowel movements regular by following a healthy high-fiber diet on a daily basis.

If you have questions about which laxative is right for you, how to take them correctly, or concerns about past laxative abuse please contact us.

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