Laxatives And Gastritis: Safe Or Not?

can I take a laxative if I have gastritis

Laxatives are a common medication used to treat constipation and stimulate bowel movements. While they are readily available over the counter, it is important to consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking them, especially if you have a condition like gastritis. This is because laxatives can have side effects and may interact with other medications. They should not be used for extended periods and are not suitable for everyone.

Characteristics Values
Should I take a laxative if I have gastritis? It is not recommended to take laxatives without consulting a doctor. People with gastrointestinal conditions should consult a doctor before taking laxatives.
What are laxatives? Laxatives are medicines that help treat constipation by softening hard stools or stimulating the bowels to get moving.
Types of laxatives Bulk-forming, osmotics, stool softeners, lubricants, and stimulants.
How to take laxatives? Laxatives can be taken orally in the form of liquids, tablets, capsules, or rectally through suppositories or enemas.
Side effects of laxatives Common side effects include bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and dehydration. Overuse can lead to electrolyte imbalance, chronic constipation, intestinal blockage, and laxative dependency.
Precautions when taking laxatives Laxatives should be taken as directed to prevent side effects. Do not take more than the recommended amount to avoid overdose. Consult a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking other medications to avoid interactions.


What are the side effects of laxatives?

While laxatives are a good way to treat constipation, they can have side effects and may not be safe for everyone. Laxatives are available over the counter in pharmacies, grocery stores, and online. They may be labelled as laxatives, stool softeners, or fibre supplements.

There are five primary types of over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives: osmotics, bulk formers, oral stool softeners, stimulants, and rectal suppositories. Osmotic laxatives, such as Phillips' Milk of Magnesia, work by drawing water into the colon to make passing stool easier. Bulk formers, such as Metamucil and FiberCon, prompt normal intestinal muscle contraction by absorbing water to form a soft, bulky stool. Oral stool softeners, such as Colace, make hard stools softer and easier to pass. Stimulants, such as Dulcolax, trigger rhythmic contractions of the intestinal muscles to encourage bowel movements. Rectal suppositories, such as glycerin, are taken rectally and work by softening the stool and triggering contractions of the intestinal muscles.

General side effects of laxatives include bloating, gas, and stomach cramps. Dehydration is also a common side effect, as laxatives can pull water from the body to soften stools. This can be prevented by drinking plenty of fluids, as recommended in the instructions. Overuse of laxatives can lead to complications such as electrolyte imbalance, chronic constipation, and intestinal blockage. Some laxatives can also interact with other medications, including heart medications, antibiotics, and bone medications. It is important to read the label carefully and consult a doctor or pharmacist before taking any laxative to ensure it is safe for your individual needs and health status.

If you are experiencing constipation, it is recommended to first try lifestyle changes such as increasing fibre intake, taking probiotics, drinking more fluids, and exercising regularly. If these changes do not help, then laxatives may be considered. However, it is important to use laxatives as directed and not to overuse them, as this can lead to dependency and worsen constipation.


What to do in the case of a laxative overdose?

Laxatives are a specific class of medicine used to induce bowel movements and relieve constipation. They are typically safe when used appropriately and as instructed. However, in rare cases, laxative misuse or abuse can lead to a laxative overdose, which can have severe and even fatal consequences.

If you or someone you know has overdosed on laxatives, it is crucial to act quickly and seek immediate medical help. Here are the steps to take in the case of a laxative overdose:

  • Call for emergency medical assistance: Dial 911 or your local emergency number, or contact your local poison control center by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) in the United States.
  • Do not induce vomiting: Do not try to make the person throw up unless specifically instructed to do so by poison control or a healthcare provider.
  • Gather important information: Before calling for help, gather the following information: the person's age, weight, and health condition; the name, ingredients, and strength of the laxative product; the time it was swallowed; the amount swallowed; and whether the medicine was prescribed for the person.
  • Take the laxative container: If possible, take the container of the laxative with you to the hospital or have someone bring it. This will help the medical providers identify the specific laxative and determine the appropriate treatment.
  • Monitor vital signs and treat symptoms: At the hospital, the medical team will monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, heart function, and blood pressure. They will also treat any symptoms that may arise due to the overdose.
  • Expect medical tests and treatments: The person may undergo blood and urine tests, receive intravenous fluids, and be given medicines to treat specific symptoms. In some cases, they may require breathing support or be placed on a ventilator if their breathing is severely affected.
  • Understand recovery depends on individual factors: The person's recovery will depend on the type of laxative swallowed, the amount ingested, and the time elapsed before receiving treatment. Laxatives containing magnesium can cause serious complications in individuals with impaired kidney function.

Remember, it is essential not to exceed the recommended dose of laxatives to prevent overdose and potential health risks. If you are experiencing constipation, consider making dietary and lifestyle changes, such as increasing your fluid intake, eating high-fiber foods, and regular exercise, before turning to laxatives.

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What are the different types of laxatives?

There are four to five main types of laxatives, all of which are used to treat constipation. They are available over the counter, but it's important to take them as directed to prevent side effects. The different types of laxatives are:

Bulk-Forming Laxatives

Also known as fibre supplements, these laxatives increase the "bulk" or weight of faeces, which stimulates the bowel. They are considered the gentlest type of laxative and are the best option to try first. Bulk-forming laxatives include:

  • Psyllium (Metamucil)
  • Polycarbophil (FiberCon)
  • Methylcellulose (Citrucel)
  • Fybogel (ispaghula husk)

Osmotic Laxatives

Osmotic laxatives draw water from the body into the colon, softening faeces and making it easier to pass. They take two to three days to work. Osmotic laxatives include:

  • Polyethylene glycol (Gavilax, MiraLAX)
  • Magnesium hydroxide solution (Dulcolax, Ex-Lax, Phillips' Milk of Magnesia)
  • Glycerin (Colace Glycerin, Fleet Pedia-Lax)
  • Lactulose (Duphalac, Lactugal)
  • Macrogol (Movicol, Laxido, CosmoCol, Molaxole, Molative)

Stool Softener Laxatives

Also called emollient laxatives, these laxatives increase the water and fat absorbed by faeces, softening it. Stool softeners include:

Docusate (Colace)

Lubricant Laxatives

Lubricant laxatives coat the colon, preventing it from absorbing water from faeces, so it stays soft and is easier to pass. Lubricant laxatives include:

Mineral oil

Stimulant Laxatives

Stimulant laxatives activate the nerves that control the muscles in the colon, forcing it to move faeces along. They are recommended if other over-the-counter types haven't helped. Stimulant laxatives include:

  • Bisacodyl (Dulcolax)
  • Senna (Fletcher's Laxative, Senokot)
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What are the alternatives to laxatives?

There are several alternatives to laxatives that can help with constipation. Here are some detailed suggestions:

Dietary Changes

  • Increase your fibre intake: Eating more fibre-rich foods can help to soften stools and improve their consistency, making them easier to pass. Aim for a mix of soluble and insoluble fibres. Soluble fibres, found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and some fruits and vegetables, absorb water and form a gel-like paste. Insoluble fibres, found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains, add bulk to stools. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 14 grams of dietary fibre for every 1,000 calories consumed.
  • Drink more water: Staying hydrated is crucial for preventing constipation. Dehydration can slow down bowel movements. Aim to drink enough water throughout the day and limit sugary drinks.
  • Reduce dairy intake: Dairy products can cause constipation in people with an intolerance. If you suspect a dairy intolerance, consult a doctor for diagnosis and guidance on removing dairy from your diet while increasing other calcium-rich foods.
  • Try a low FODMAP diet: This diet involves limiting certain foods to help manage irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and may relieve IBS-related constipation. However, it may not be sufficient on its own, and ensuring adequate water and fibre intake is crucial.
  • Eat prebiotic foods: Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrate fibres that improve digestive health by feeding beneficial gut bacteria. Prebiotic fibres include oligosaccharide and inulin, found in foods like Jerusalem artichokes.
  • Try natural laxative foods: Certain foods have natural laxative properties. These include chia seeds, berries, legumes, flaxseeds, kefir, leafy greens, prunes, apples, rhubarb, oat bran, kiwi, and coffee.

Lifestyle Changes

  • Exercise regularly: Exercise may help reduce constipation symptoms. Aim for gentle exercises like walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in the gut, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. Consuming probiotic foods or taking supplements may help improve gut bacteria balance and treat constipation.
  • Carbonated water: Drinking carbonated or sparkling water may help relieve constipation by rehydrating the body and stimulating bowel movements. However, avoid sugary carbonated drinks, which can have harmful health effects.
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When is it time to see a doctor about constipation?

Constipation is a common issue, but it is never truly normal. While it can be uncomfortable to talk about, it's important to seek medical advice if you are concerned.

  • Sudden onset: If you have always been regular and suddenly develop chronic constipation, there may be an underlying cause that needs treatment.
  • Long-lasting constipation: If your constipation does not improve within three weeks with increased water intake, exercise, and fibre, it's time to see a doctor.
  • Blood in stool: This could indicate conditions such as Crohn's disease or colorectal cancer.
  • Unexplained weight loss: While constipation may decrease your appetite, noticeable and unexplained weight loss could indicate celiac disease or cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Severe abdominal pain: Intense abdominal pain with constipation could be a sign of intestinal obstruction, diverticulitis, or bowel perforation.
  • Vomiting: Vomiting with constipation could indicate a bowel obstruction or blockage.
  • Bloating: Painful bloating with constipation could be a sign of bowel obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or gastroparesis.
  • Racing heart: This could be a sign of fecal impaction, a dangerous condition where hard, dry stool gets stuck and blocks new stool from passing.
  • Inability to pass gas: This could indicate a bowel obstruction in the small or large intestine.
  • No bowel movements for more than one week: This could lead to fecal impaction, which can be addressed by a healthcare provider.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible. They can help determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.

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Frequently asked questions

It is not recommended to take laxatives if you have gastritis. Laxatives can have side effects such as abdominal cramps, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances. If you are experiencing constipation due to gastritis, it is best to consult with your doctor or a healthcare professional for advice on treatment.

The common side effects of taking laxatives include abdominal cramps, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances. More serious side effects may include intestinal obstruction, diarrhoea, and dependency on laxatives. It is important to follow the instructions on the medication and not exceed the recommended dosage to avoid these side effects.

Yes, there are some natural alternatives to laxatives and lifestyle changes that can help alleviate constipation. This includes increasing your daily intake of fibre, adding bulking agents such as bran to your diet, and consuming more fluids. Exercise can also help stimulate bowel movements.

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