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Laxatives and Stool Softeners

 –  Constipation can cause a number of symptoms. From bloating to abdominal discomfort to pain when trying to pass stools, these symptoms can get in your way of enjoying your day. Often, constipation can be successfully addressed at home with laxatives or stool softeners with the advice of a doctor. At drugstore.com, we carry many of the most commonly recommended laxatives and stool softeners, so that you can follow your doctor's advice and conveniently purchase the products you need.
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Bulk-Forming Laxatives for Daily Use and Symptom Relief

Doctors may recommend bulk-forming laxatives if lifestyle changes do not relieve constipation. These products can provide relief faster than other types of laxatives and work by adding to the size of waste in the bowels to make stools softer and easier to eliminate from the body.

Bulk-forming laxatives that contain dietary fiber like methylcellulose and psyllium may be gentle enough to be used daily to address ongoing constipation or to promote bowel regularity. Most experts recommend that bulk-forming laxatives be introduced slowly according to a doctor or the manufacturer's instructions in order to reduce the risk of side effects like temporary bloating and gas.

Osmotic and Stimulant Laxatives

There are two other varieties of oral over-the-counter laxatives that are commonly recommended by doctors: osmotic and stimulant.

Osmotic laxatives draw moisture into stools, making them softer and easier to pass when it comes time to make a bowel movement. Polyethylene glycol, magnesium citrate and milk of magnesia are popular osmotic laxatives. Stimulant laxatives are generally considered the strongest of the laxatives that are available without a prescription and are usually only safe for short-term use. These products help the intestines push out feces. Commonly used stimulant laxatives include bisacodyl and senna.

How Do Stool Softeners Work?

Sometimes, the consistency of feces makes it difficult to go to the bathroom comfortably. When a stool becomes too hard, passing it can be painful. Stool softeners can be used to address the problem and work by mixing small amounts of fluid with waste to make the stool softer.

Doctors often recommend stool softeners for individuals who are recovering from surgery or who should not strain when they go to the bathroom for other reasons. Your physician may also recommend that you use a stool softener along with a laxative in some cases.

Suppositories and Enemas

Oral laxatives aren't the only products available for constipation relief. In some cases, doctors recommend suppositories and enemas to address the problem.

How Do Suppositories Work?

Sometimes called lubricant laxatives, suppositories are pellets that are inserted into the rectum. The heat from the body causes them to melt and create a slippery surface that allows stools to exit the body with greater ease.

What Is an Enema?

Enemas are liquids that are introduced into the rectum. Some contain oils that provide lubrication like suppositories. Others contain saline and function like osmotic laxatives, making stools softer to help you pass them.

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