Constipation occurs with infrequent bowel movements, and when the stool becomes too hard to pass out smoothly, or without straining. Let’s take a look at several products that may bring relief to your constipation, and to your digestive system.
Psyllium (sold in powder form) is a gentle laxative commonly prescribed for constipation. The high fiber content in psyllium is responsible for producing the ‘bulk’ your stool. Psyllium softens stool, thereby making it easier to pass through the colon.
To be effective, psyllium powder must be mixed with one cup of water and consumed immediately because the drink thickens quickly. Take psyllium early in the day to allow time to drink plenty of fluids before bedtime. You may see results in forty-eight hours. No side effects are associated with psyllium, however, insufficient water intake can exacerbate constipation, and produce gas and excess bloat. You can purchase unflavored psyllium powder at natural health food stores. Psyllium is also sold as Metamucil drug stores.
You may already know what to take for constipation if you have seen commercial ads for popular stimulant laxative brands such as Senokot, Dulcolax, and Ex-Lax. These types of oral laxatives work quickly as evidenced by the commercials where an individual under duress gets immediate relief from constipation after taking the product.
Stimulant laxatives are sold in capsule form and are available over the counter. These laxatives must be taken safely. In other words, take the product short term only for minor constipation, and not for ongoing chronic problems. Avoid relying on any stimulant laxative daily, or repeatedly, for the following reasons:
- Abdominal cramping
- An urgent need for trips to the restroom
- Laxative dependency
- Inability to absorb vitamin D effectively
Castor oil is another stimulant laxative available in both liquid and a more palatable, coated capsule form. Take the castor oil early in the day and on an empty stomach. You can get temporary relief quickly (and with force) in about two to four hours. Repeated use of castor oil can cause kidney problems, nausea, chronic diarrhea, and abdominal distress. And, because castor oil can completely cleanse your colon, you may not pass any stool for up to three days.
When tried-and-true oral laxatives fail to improve your condition, your next course of action may be to take a look at enemas. You can purchase a completely pre-packaged enema solution with instructions at your local pharmacy. Some enema kits are elaborate and involve using bags, hooks, douche pipes, tubes, and clamps.
Other kits have just a simple douche bottle that you would insert into the rectum and gently pump the liquid into the colon. Enemas are safe to use but perhaps uncomfortable to use. Enemas scores high as a constipation treatment and work very well as an over-the-counter colon cleansing method.
Suppositories are small, conical-shaped glycerin capsules that are inserted into the bum. After inserting the suppository, you are advised to lie down on your left side for about 20 to 30 minutes—the approximate time it takes for the lubricant to help the impacted stool make its way out. Few side effects are associated with suppository use, but symptoms may include minor rectal irritation.
Lubiprostone is an FDA approved prescription drug for treating chronic constipation. This drug acts as a stool softener. The side effects, however, can be intolerable. Symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Severe nausea and diarrhea
- Swelling of the tongue and throat
- Stomach cramps
- Anxiety and depression
Prescription colon cleanses are only prescribed to patients prior to colonoscopy or surgery.
Used properly, common laxative treatments for constipation can be effective. But keep in mind that these remedies are not for repeated use. Consult your physician if problems persist after trying the treatments.