Laxatives are the substances/medicines that loosen stools and increase bowel movements (intestinal peristalsis). Thus they are used to prevent constipation. They are important in the treatment of piles even after surgery. There are a variety of laxatives available. Grossly there are 3 types of laxatives i.e. bulk-forming (roughage), emollients (stool softeners) and stimulants. Rest are the subtypes of these. These are some of the necessary precautions one must follow while using laxatives:
- Firstly they have to be taken under practitioner's guidance. Irrespective of any advertisements, laxatives have to be started only upon the prescription of a doctor.
- Overdosage is harmful as it may cause diarrhoea, electrolyte imbalance and other complications.
- Laxative abuse: Repeated, frequent use of laxatives mainly for weight loss. This has to be avoided. The role of laxatives in weight loss is minimal.
- Laxative dependency: Due to prolonged use of laxatives, at a stage, dependency occurs, later sufficient dose of laxatives also fail to produce the desired action. So care should be taken not to get addicted to laxatives.
- Instead of self-decision about the dose of laxatives in constipation, the reason should be evaluated by an expert consultation/tests. This helps in identifying the underlying pathology and the exact treatment for it because progressive constipation is dangerous.
- Ayurvedic laxatives are mild, safe and effective. They won't cause dependency and also serve the purpose. Thus they can be used if necessary.
- Dietary fibre found in vegetables and fruits is a good natural remedy for constipation. It adds to the bulk of stools also. Green leafy vegetables, fruits like banana, lots of fluids like buttermilk should be adopted in the daily diet (diabetics can use only vegetables).
Thus care should be taken while using laxatives and they are good for short-term use only.