What Are Stimulant Laxatives?

Published on January 26, 2022

While constipation is a common condition, it’s not commonly discussed. In an ideal world, everyone would pass a soft and painless stool, once or twice a day. But, since everyone’s different and a normal bowel movement can be anything from a few times a day for one person to once every 3 to 4 days for another, it can be hard to define what constitutes true constipation.

Who is affected by constipation?

In Australia, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people are effected by constipation. Worldwide it is estimated that 3–30% of children will experience constipation.

Are some people more prone to constipation?

Some people may be more susceptible to constipation due to lifestyle and health factors. People more prone to constipation include:

  • Young children — Young children can experience constipation during toilet training.
  • The elderly — The elderly may be more susceptible to constipation due to bowel function changes as they age and decreased mobility.
  • Women — Women may experience constipation in the premenopausal period.
  • People with a family history — People with a family history are more susceptible to constipation.

Stimulant laxatives for constipation

Stimulant laxatives are those that help the bowel to contract and pass stools along. They can work in two ways:

  1. Stimulant laxatives inhibit water absorption to increase the water in the bowel to help soften the stool, and
  2. Increase the natural movement of the bowel muscles to help the stool move through the colon.

When are stimulant laxatives recommended?

Stimulant laxatives may be recommended for short-term constipation relief, particularly when poor colonic motility (movement of the stool through the colon) is a contributing factor.

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