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Laxative vs Stool Softeners – What’s the Difference?

Bulk-forming laxatives add bulk and water to your stools. The bulk causes the colon muscles to contract and push stool out of the body. You should use bulk-forming laxatives daily for them to work. Begin slowly and drink plenty of fluids. You should gradually increase the amount of bulk-forming laxatives to reduce the chance of having any side effects.

Lubricant laxatives coat the surface of the stools. This enables the stool to retain water so they move out of the body more easily. Glycerin suppositories lubricate the inside of the anus to make it easier to pass hard stools.

Stool softeners draws fluid into stools to soften them. This makes stools easier to pass through the anus.

Saline laxatives draw fluid into the bowel from nearby tissue. This softens stools and helps the bowel move them out.

Stimulant laxatives are the harshest laxatives. They cause the bowel to squeeze or contract to move the stools out of your body. Stimulant laxatives should generally be used only for short durations or when your doctor recommends them, (preparing for a bowel exam or if you’ve just had surgery and shouldn’t strain to have a bowel movement).

If you are experiencing severe constipation, you may need to use a stimulant laxative to get you “moving” and then use bulk forming laxatives or stool softeners to keep you regular. You should try natural remedies, such as dietary modification (high fiber, eliminating constipating food) and exercise, before using stimulates laxatives.