Combination laxatives: Check labels carefully

Some products combine different types of laxatives, such as a stimulant and a stool softener. But combination products don't necessarily work more effectively than single-ingredient products. In addition, they may be more likely to cause side effects.

A single-ingredient laxative may work better for you. Read labels to make sure you know what you're taking, and use with caution.

Risks of laxative use

  • Interaction with medications. Your medical history and medications you're taking may limit your laxative options. Laxatives can interact with some antibiotics, and certain heart and bone medications. Read labels carefully. If you're not sure whether to try a particular laxative, ask your pharmacist or doctor. Don't exceed recommended dosages unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
  • Complicating conditions. Laxative use can be dangerous if constipation is caused by a serious condition, such as appendicitis or a bowel obstruction. If you frequently use laxatives for weeks or months, they can decrease your colon's ability to contract and actually worsen constipation.
  • Precautions for pregnant women and children. Don't give children under age 6 laxatives without a doctor's recommendation. If you're pregnant, ask your doctor before using laxatives. Bulk-forming laxatives and stool softeners are generally safe to use during pregnancy, but stimulant laxatives may be harmful.

If you've recently given birth, consult your doctor before using laxatives. Although they're usually safe to use during breast-feeding, some ingredients may pass into breast milk and cause diarrhea in nursing infants.

Take laxatives with caution

If you're dependent on laxatives to have a bowel movement, ask your doctor for suggestions on how to gradually withdraw from them and restore your colon's natural ability to contract.

June 06, 2017 See more In-depth