are four types of products used to prevent or treat constipation: bulking
agents, stool softeners, osmotic laxatives, and stimulant laxatives.
Bulking agents, such as bran or psyllium (found in Metamucil, for example) ease
constipation by increasing the volume of stool and making it easier to pass.
Regular use of bulking agents is safe and helps make them more
Since you were recently diagnosed with chronic constipation, ask your doctor these questions at your next visit.
What is chronic constipation?
Is my chronic constipation a sign of a serious disease such as colon cancer?
Can the medications I take be the cause of chronic constipation?
What medical tests can help determine the cause of chronic constipation?
Are psyllium powder mixes or other over-the-counter (OTC) remedies effective for ending constipation?
If I've been taking ...
Stool softeners (such as Colace
and DocusateCalcium) soften the stool, making it easier to pass. Stool
softeners can be most effective if you drink plenty of water throughout the
Osmotic laxatives, such as Fleet Phospho-Soda, Milk of Magnesia, or Miralax, and nonabsorbable sugars (such as lactulose or sorbitol), hold fluids in the intestine. They also draw fluids into the intestine from other tissue and blood vessels. This extra fluid in the intestines makes the stool softer and easier to pass. Drink plenty of water when you use this type of laxative.
Stimulant laxatives (such as Correctol, Ex-Lax, and Senokot) make stool move faster through the intestines by irritating the lining of the intestines. Regular use of stimulant laxatives is not recommended. Stimulant laxatives change the tone and feeling in the large intestine, and you can become dependent on using laxatives all the time to have a bowel movement.
Take any laxative or bulking agent with plenty
of water or other liquids.
Do not take laxatives regularly. They change the tone and feeling in the large intestine. And you can become dependent on using them all the time to have a bowel movement. If you need help having regular bowel movements, use a
Regular use of laxatives may change your body's ability to absorb
vitamin D and
calcium. This can lead to weakened bones.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
February 05, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this