Drugs Q & A

Should You Eat After Taking Laxatives?

Constipation occurs when a person has difficulty emptying the large bowel. Home remedies and lifestyle changes can often help resolve it, but sometimes, it may need medical attention. Constipation can happen for many reasons, such as when stool passes through the colon too slowly. The slower the food moves through the digestive tract, the more water the colon will absorb and the harder the feces will become. A person who poops fewer than 3 times per week may have constipation.

Sometimes, constipation results from a blockage in the large intestine. In this case, a person will need urgent medical attention. At other times, it may simply be due to a lack of fiber or water. Constipation is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints in the United States. At least 2.5 million people see their doctor each year due to constipation.

People of all ages can have an occasional bout of constipation. There are also certain people and situations that are more likely to lead to becoming more consistently constipated (“chronic constipation”). These include:

•          Older age. Older people tend to be less active, have a slower metabolism, and less muscle contraction strength along their digestive tract than when they were younger.

•          Being a woman, especially while you are pregnant and after childbirth. Changes in a woman’s hormones make them more prone to constipation. The baby inside the womb squishes the intestines, slowing down the passage of stool.

•          Not eating enough high-fiber foods. High-fiber foods keep food moving through the digestive system.

•          Taking certain medications.

•          Having certain neurological (diseases of the brain and spinal cord) and digestive disorders.

What are laxatives?

Laxatives are a type of medicine that can treat constipation. They’re often used if lifestyle changes, such as increasing the amount of fiber in your diet, drinking plenty of fluid, and taking regular exercise, have not helped. Laxatives can have powerful effects on your digestive health, helping relieve constipation and promoting regular bowel movements. Laxatives are available to buy from pharmacies and supermarkets.

Several types of laxatives work in different ways. The main classes of laxatives include:

•          Bulk-forming laxatives. These move through the body undigested, absorbing water and swelling to form stools. Commercial options of bulk-forming laxatives include Metamucil and Citrucel, which are available in powder and capsule form.

•          Stool softener. These increase the amount of water absorbed by stools to make them softer and easier to pass. Stool softeners include docusate sodium and docusate calcium. They’re available in pill or tablet form.

•          Lubricant laxatives. These coat the surfaces of stools and intestinal lining to keep in moisture, allowing for softer stools and easier passage. Mineral oil is an example of a lubricant laxative that’s available in liquid or enema form.

•          Osmotic-type laxatives. These help the colon retain more water, increasing the frequency of bowel movements. Examples of osmotic laxatives include milk of magnesia and glycerin. These are available as a liquid, caplet, enema, or suppository.

•          Saline laxatives. These draw water into the small intestine to encourage a bowel movement. Magnesium citrate is one type of saline laxative. It’s available in pill form.

•          Stimulant laxatives. They speed the movement of the digestive system to induce a bowel movement. Stimulant laxatives are available as tablets, pills, powders, chewable, liquids, and suppositories under brand names like Ex-Lax, Senokot, and Dulcolax.

Over-the-counter laxatives begin to work within a few hours or may take a few days to take full effect.

Should you eat after taking Laxatives?

Avoid eating immediately after taking a laxative, most laxatives work best when taken on an empty stomach. Some are best taken 1-2 hours before or after having dinner with plenty of fluids for rapid effect.

If you eat immediately after taking a stimulant laxative, it will affect the way the drug works and slow down its effect. Sometimes people think that laxatives will help move their food through their body before the body absorbs any calories. So they may take laxatives after eating a big meal or binge eating. They think this helps lose weight or will stop them from gaining weight. This is not true.

Research suggests that while some people mistakenly believe that taking laxatives will prevent their body from absorbing calories, it is an unsafe and ineffective strategy. Laxatives treat constipation by softening the stool or stimulating bowel movements.

You shouldn’t need to use a laxative for longer than a week, though. If your bowel movements still aren’t regular after using a laxative for seven days, contact your doctor before you use it any longer. Generally, laxatives are safe for people who are 12 years or older. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should discuss with their doctor before using any laxative.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker