Constipation: How to Choose A Laxative?

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When we suffer from constipation, we do not always dare to resort to laxatives, for fear of too fast action and not necessarily at the right time. While not all are indicated for occasional constipation, some mild laxatives may help regulate transit.

According to a survey commissioned in 2015 by the Bayer laboratory, 41% of women who suffer from constipation do not treat themselves as soon as the first symptoms appear. They repel the use of laxatives for fear of habituation and for fear of their action too quickly and not necessarily at the most opportune time. However, according to Dr. Laurent Abramowitz, doctor in charge of the proctology unit at CHU Bichat, in Paris, “late management can cause abdominal pain sometimes intense and have real repercussions on the quality of life while there are different classes of laxatives with varying modes and time of action and which allow to release the transit smoothly”.

Three classes of laxatives are particularly suitable for cases of occasional constipation: osmotic laxatives, ballast laxatives and lubricating laxatives. The other two classes (stimulant and rectal laxatives) require doctor’s advice instead.


These laxatives soften the stool by creating a water appeal in the intestine and thus facilitate their emission. They are little known to the general public since in self-medication, they represent only 2 laxatives sold out of 10. On the other hand, 7 out of 10 medical prescriptions focus on this class of drugs.

Action Time: 1 to 2 days

Side Effects: Bloating and abdominal pain at the beginning of treatment except for moisturizing osmotic laxatives. The latter are preferred in pregnant women.


These laxatives increase in volume in the presence of water and change the consistency of the stool. They require a lot of drinking to be active.

Action Time: 1 to 3 days. Maximum effectiveness after several days of treatment.

Side Effects: Gas and bloating. It is advisable to take them away from other medicines you are taking.


These laxatives facilitate the emission of stool by lubricating and softening them.

Action Time: 6 hours to 3 days.

Side Effects: They can cause oozing or irritation in the anus. Prolonged use can reduce the absorption of certain vitamins (A, D, E, K).

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These laxatives stimulate the intestine and increase the secretion of water. “To use as a last resort in case of failure of osmotic laxatives because it is an acute response to a chronic problem” explains the specialist.

Action Time: 6 hours after taking.

Side Effects: Diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue or allergic reactions. In this case, it is necessary to stop treatment. They should not be used during pregnancy or if you suffer from chronic constipation.


These laxatives trigger the defecation reflex. “It is recommended to take the advice of a doctor before taking laxatives rectally as they are not recommended in case of anal lesions,” adds the specialist.

Action Time: Between 5 and 60 minutes.

Side Effects: Their repeated or prolonged use is not recommended as it may cause a risk of irritation in the anus.