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Over the Counter Laxatives Comparision Guide

Milk of Magnesia® and Haley’s M.O.® - these laxatives contain magnesium salts that are very poorly absorbed by the intestinal tract. As a result, the magnesium remains in the intestine and keeps water with it. The end result is that there is much more water in the stool, keeping it very soft, and causing it to move through the intestine more quickly. In high doses, magnesium salts often produce diarrhea.

Lactulose (Chronulac® and Duphalax®) - these laxatives contain a sugar that is not absorbed by the intestinal tract. As a result, the sugar (lactulose) remains in the intestine and keeps water with it. The end result is that there is much more water in the stool, keeping it very soft, and causing it to move through the intestine more quickly. Many people who take lactulose experiences bloating and excessive amounts of intestinal gas. In high doses, lactulose often produces diarrhea.

Sennokot®, Fletcher’s Castoria®, Ex-Lax®, Aloe Vera- these laxatives contain the natural plant derivative senna. Senna stimulates the intestine to secrete salt and water so that there is much more water in the stool, keeping it very soft, and causing it to move through the intestine more quickly. Senna also is a mild irritant, causing the lower intestine to contract (squeeze). In some children, high doses of senna cause cramps and diarrhea.

Polyethylene glycol 3350 (Miralax® or Glycolax®) - these laxatives contains a very large polymer of 3350 molecules of ethylene glycol. Because the polymer is so large, it is not absorbed by the intestinal tract. As a result, the polymer remains in the intestine and keeps water with it. The end result is that there is much more water in the stool, keeping it soft, and causing it to move through the intestine more quickly. One of the advantages of Miralax® and Glycolax® is that they are a tasteless and odorless powder than can be readily mixed into juices or other fluids without altering their taste. In high doses, Miralax® and Glycolax often produce diarrhea.

Mineral Oil
- many people believe that mineral oil works by “lubricating the intestine”. Mineral oil is a non-absorbable oil that is digested by bacteria living in the large intestine. Some of the by-products of this digestion stimulate the intestine to secrete salt and water. This results in there being much more water in the stool, keeping it very soft, and causing it to move through the intestine more quickly. When taking high doses of mineral oil, many children will experience some orange seepage as well as some itching at their anus.

Metamucil®, Citrucel®, Fibercon®, Fiberall®, and Maltsupex®
– these are all fiber-based laxatives. Fiber laxatives contain complex sugars that are not digested or absorbed in the intestine. As a result, the sugars remain in the intestine and keep water with them. The end result is that there is much more water in the stool, keeping it very soft, and causing it to move through the intestine more quickly. In high doses, fiber laxatives often cause bloating and gas.

University of Virginia Health System