Which Stool Softener Is Best For Constipation

by Bobski606

There are a variety of stool softeners available on the market but only one or a couple will be suitable for yourself. Find out how they work and which will help you.

Constipation is very uncomfortable thing to experience but stool softeners can really help to ease your bowel movements. However, there are a wide variety of stool softeners available over-the-counter and from your doctor but it's still important to find out which type will be best for your current situation.

You'll also find answers to common questions around the use of stool softeners: how long till they work; why not use a laxative?; how to use a stool softener etc. Think of this as an informational FAQ but it still wont replace the knowledge or experience of your doctor or pharmacist so if you're in doubt you should always consult them first.

Photo Credit: Garlandcannon, Flickr

What Is A Stool Softener

To put it bluntly a stool softener is a way of making hard or compacted stool malleable enough to move through the bowel without causing any damage or pain on the way out. Sometimes if you get constipated through a poor diet or other medical reasons the stools can get rather hard and painful to pass. The stools harden because the water has been re-absorbed because they have been sitting in the bowel for too long; the natural lubrication in the bowel (the gel like substance made from soluble fiber) is also re-absorbed too.

When this happens you might need to take a stool softener if drinking water alone doesn't help; sometimes simply drinking more will get more water into the bowel where it can be absorbed by the stool and soften up again. However, if the water doesn't help there are a few things that can. 

How To Use A Stool Softener

Suppository Or Capsule

Stool softeners come in five different types: suppositories, pills, liquids, powders and chewables. When it comes down to the action they all get the same result just in slightly different ways so it all depends on what you're comfortable with putting into your body (and where).

For really hard stools I would recommend getting a suppository simply because they can get right to the source of the problem very very quickly. I know you're probably reluctant to pop something *up there* but when you're in pain and haven't gone to the toilet for days then you'll soon realize how wonderful one simple suppository can be. The suppositories work by placing a fairly small "pill" coated in wax, that is normally shaped like a bullet, into the rectum. Once inside the wax is designed to melt at body temperature and the active ingredients work to soften the stool and work up through the rest of the bowel. The stool waiting to come out is normally what's causing the problem which is why suppositories are so effective.

For mild to moderate constipation or stool hardness then the other types will be sufficient and it's all just down to your own personal preference as they all have to go through the stomach and through the intestines. These four work by tell the body to not absorb so much water and they also put a thin lining around the intestines to make it harder for the absorption to take place. Having more water surrounding the stool makes it easier for it to become softer.

How Long Will A Stool Softener Take To Work?

Having cramps, pain and general discomfort is an unpleasant experience for everyone suffering with constipation or hardened stools so when it comes down to action you'll want to have something that works really quickly. The quickest stool softeners you can get are suppositories which will give you the relief you need in about 30 minutes or so. Whereas the other types of stool softeners will take much longer.

Taking a stool softener in pill, liquid, chewable, or powder form is a much more gentle approach and it is often advised that you take these before bed so that they can work on your stools and bowel overnight. These are often quick gentle so you will not feel any urges to go or get any unwanted side effects. You'll be looking at a timescale of 2-8 hours depending on the brand and strength of the particular stool softener you're taking. As long as you read the instructions on each different type you're taking you'll be fine.

Stool Softener Or Laxative

What's The Difference

So far we have discussed what a stool softener is and how it works but what's the difference between taking a stool softener and a laxative? There's a fairly big difference and to put it simply a laxative irritates the bowel lining and intestine causing the muscles to contract and move your stools along to the rectum. Whereas a stool softener adds more water into the stool to make them softer and easier to pass.

The problem with laxatives is that after a while the body gets lazy and requires a laxative just to have a bowel movement. If you stop taking them when the body becomes reliant then you will have a lazy bowel and become constipated beyond your imagination.

Laxatives certainly have their place when you are under supervision of a doctor for long-term bowel problems, or if you have a one of bout of constipation and you just can't go. Sure, using a laxative once a year or so is not going to give you any problems, just don't become dependent on the things.

Have you ever taken a stool softener?

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Updated: 12/27/2013, Bobski606
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