Antidiarrheals After Laxatives: Safe?

can I take an antidiarrheal after a laxative

Diarrhoea and constipation are two opposing conditions that occur when the final step of defecation is disrupted. Diarrhoea is defined as the passage of three or more loose or liquid stools per day, whereas constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, with stools that are hard, dry, or lumpy. Laxatives are used to treat constipation, while antidiarrheal medications are used to treat diarrhoea. However, it is important to note that antidiarrheal medications only relieve the symptoms of diarrhoea, such as increased frequency and urgency, without addressing the underlying cause.

There are several types of laxatives available, including fibre supplements, stool softeners, osmotic agents, lubricants, and stimulants. On the other hand, antidiarrheal medications typically fall into three categories: adsorbents, which eliminate toxins or bacteria from the GI tract; antimotility agents, which slow peristalsis; and probiotics, which restore normal bacteria in the lower intestine. It is crucial to consult a doctor or medical professional before taking any of these medications, as they may have side effects and interactions with other drugs.

Characteristics Values
Purpose of antidiarrheal medications To relieve the symptoms of diarrhea, such as an increased frequency and urgency when passing stools, but do not eliminate the cause of it.
Purpose of laxatives To bulk up stool in cases of diarrhea or to soften stool in cases of constipation.
Types of antidiarrheal medications Adsorbents, antimotility agents, and probiotics.
Types of laxatives Bulk-forming, stool softeners, osmotic agents, lubricants, and stimulants.
Examples of adsorbents Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto Bismol).
Examples of antimotility medications Anticholinergics (e.g. hyoscyamine) and opiate-like medication (e.g. loperamide).
Examples of probiotics Lactobacillus.
Examples of bulk-forming laxatives Psyllium (Metamucil).
Examples of stool softeners Docusate.
Examples of osmotic agents Milk of Magnesia, Polyethylene glycol (PEG) 3350 (Miralax).
Examples of lubricants Mineral oil enema (Fleet).
Examples of stimulants Bisacodyl (Dulcolax).


Antidiarrheal medication classes

Antidiarrheal medications are used to treat acute and chronic diarrhoea. They help to reduce the frequency and urgency of passing stools, but they do not eliminate the cause of diarrhoea. This means that as soon as you stop taking an antidiarrheal, diarrhoea will return unless the underlying cause has been addressed. Antidiarrheals can be taken orally or intravenously, and some are available over the counter without a prescription.

There are several types of antidiarrheal medications, including:

  • Oral rehydration agents: These don't stop or slow down diarrhoea but help to replace the fluids lost during an episode of diarrhoea.
  • Antimotility agents: These work by slowing down intestinal contractions, increasing the time it takes for the contents of the bowel to be excreted. This allows more water to be absorbed from the bowel back into the body, reducing the water content of the stool.
  • Antibacterial agents: These are used to treat diarrhoea caused by specific infections, but they are not routinely recommended or needed.
  • Bulk-forming agents: These add fibre to the stool, allowing it to absorb more water and create larger, softer stools.

Some common antidiarrheal medications include:

  • Loperamide (Imodium)
  • Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate)
  • Octreotide (Sandostatin)
  • Difenoxin hcl/atropine (Motofen)
  • Psyllium (Metamucil)
  • Loperamide/simethicone (Imodium Multi-Symptom Relief)
  • Diphenoxylate/atropine (Lomotil)


Laxative medication classes

Laxatives are a category of medications used to address constipation and other gastrointestinal issues. They work by enhancing digestion and promoting bowel movements, facilitating the process of bodily excretion. They can be used to treat constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic idiopathic constipation, and opioid-induced constipation. Laxatives are also used to empty the bowels before procedures such as colonoscopies.

Laxatives are typically classified based on their mechanism of action:

  • Bulk-forming laxatives: These agents retain fluid in the stool, increasing its weight and consistency. Examples include psyllium, dietary fibre, and methylcellulose.
  • Osmotic agents: This class of medicines draws water into the bowel. Examples include milk of magnesia, lactulose, sorbitol, and polyethylene glycol.
  • Prokinetic agents: These work as agonists of 5-hydroxytryptamine receptors, releasing acetylcholine and inducing mucosal secretion. Examples include cisapride and tegaserod.
  • Lubricants: Lubricants aid the passage of stools by coating the surface of the stool and making it slippery. An example is mineral oil.
  • Stimulants: Stimulants increase intestinal secretions and motility, and decrease water absorption from the bowel. Examples include bisacodyl, senna, cascara, and sodium picosulfate.
  • Surface active agents: These lower the surface tension, allowing water and fats to penetrate the stool. An example is docusate.
  • Guanylate cyclase agonist: This type of laxative induces the production of cGMP, leading to water and electrolyte secretion into the bowel. Examples include linaclotide and plecanatide.
  • Chloride channel activator: This class of laxatives leads to water and chloride secretion into the stool, softening the stool consistency. An example is lubiprostone.
  • Peripherally acting mu-opioid receptor antagonists: These drugs are used in opioid-induced constipation, blocking mu-opioid receptors in the gastrointestinal tract. Examples include naldemedine, naloxegol, and methylnatrexone.
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When to take antidiarrheals

Antidiarrheals are medications that slow down or stop diarrhoea, providing relief from symptoms such as increased frequency and urgency when passing stools. They are typically used for acute, non-life-threatening situations, such as viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) or food poisoning. It is important to note that antidiarrheals do not treat the underlying cause of diarrhoea, so it is recommended to seek medical advice if symptoms persist or are accompanied by other concerning issues.

Now, let's discuss when to take antidiarrheals:

  • Occasional Diarrhoea: For most adults, diarrhoea occurs occasionally and often resolves on its own within a few days. In such cases, taking an antidiarrheal can help manage symptoms and provide relief.
  • Chronic Digestive Diseases: For individuals with chronic digestive diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), antidiarrheals can be beneficial. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare provider first, as these medications may interact with other prescriptions and are typically recommended for limited use.
  • Bacterial or Parasitic Infections: Antidiarrheals are not recommended if diarrhoea is caused by bacteria or parasites. In such cases, it is crucial to let the body eliminate the infection. Consult a doctor if a bacterial or parasitic infection is suspected.
  • Dehydration: Diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, especially if it persists or is severe. Signs of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, unusual fatigue, and dark yellow urine. While antidiarrheals can help manage diarrhoea, it is vital to prioritise rehydration by consuming extra fluids like water or sports drinks.
  • Severe Symptoms: If diarrhoea is accompanied by a fever, severe abdominal pain, blood or pus in the stool, or an inability to stay hydrated, consult a healthcare provider immediately. These could be indicators of a more serious condition that requires medical attention.
  • Medications: If you are taking any prescription medications, always consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking an antidiarrheal to avoid potential drug interactions. This is particularly important for individuals taking prescription medications for chronic conditions.
  • Dosage and Timing: When taking antidiarrheals, carefully follow the recommended dosage and timing instructions on the medication label or as advised by your healthcare provider. Do not exceed the recommended amount, as it can be dangerous.
  • Underlying Conditions: If you have underlying health conditions, especially related to the heart, kidneys, or liver, consult your doctor before taking antidiarrheals. Certain antidiarrheals may have side effects or interact with other medications you are taking for these conditions.
  • Age and Vulnerability: Antidiarrheals are generally safe for healthy adults. However, older individuals or those with existing health problems should be cautious and consult their doctor if they experience any side effects. Additionally, for children, always seek medical advice before administering antidiarrheals.
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When to take laxatives

Laxatives are a type of medicine that can help treat constipation. They are available over the counter, without a prescription, from pharmacies and supermarkets. They can also be prescribed by a doctor.

Laxatives are typically used when lifestyle changes, such as increasing fibre intake, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking regular exercise, have not helped with constipation. They should only be used occasionally and for short periods, and it is important to follow the instructions on the medication to prevent side effects.

There are several types of laxatives, including:

  • Bulk-forming laxatives: These increase the bulk of stools by helping them retain fluid, which stimulates the bowels to push out the stools. Examples include ispaghula husk and methylcellulose.
  • Osmotic laxatives: These soften stools by increasing the amount of water in the bowels, making them easier to pass. Examples include lactulose and polyethylene glycol.
  • Stimulant laxatives: These speed up bowel movement by stimulating the nerves that control the muscles lining the digestive tract. Examples include bisacodyl, senna, and sodium picosulfate.
  • Stool softener laxatives: These increase the fluid content of hard, dry stools, making them easier to pass. Examples include arachis oil and docusate sodium.
  • Lubricant laxatives: These coat the colon, preventing water absorption from the stool, and making it slippery and easier to pass. An example is mineral oil.
  • If you are experiencing occasional constipation that has not improved with lifestyle changes: In this case, it is recommended to try a bulk-forming laxative first, as they are generally considered the gentlest and least likely to cause side effects.
  • If your stools remain hard: Try using an osmotic laxative in addition to, or instead of, a bulk-forming laxative.
  • If your stools are soft but still difficult to pass: Try taking a stimulant laxative in addition to a bulk-forming laxative.
  • If you have a chronic condition that causes constipation: This includes conditions such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. However, it is important to check with your healthcare provider before taking laxatives if you have any chronic condition.
  • If you need a bowel cleanse before a medical procedure: Laxatives can be used to flush stool out of the colon before a procedure on the digestive system.
  • If you are pregnant or breastfeeding: Check with your doctor or pharmacist first, as some laxatives may not be safe.
  • If you are taking prescription medication: Some laxatives can interfere with the effects of certain medications, so always consult your healthcare provider before taking a laxative if you are on prescription medication.
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Antidiarrheal medication side effects

Antidiarrheal medications and laxatives are used to treat bowel problems, such as constipation and diarrhea. They can be used to bulk up or soften stools, and are often a less invasive treatment option than surgery. However, it is important to be aware of the potential side effects of these medications.

Laxatives can be taken orally or rectally and work by softening stools or increasing their bulk with additional fiber. While they are available over the counter, it is important to consult a doctor or medical professional before use, as they can have side effects. Laxatives can cause abdominal cramps and dehydration, which may lead to lightheadedness, headaches, and darker urine. In rare cases, excessive or prolonged use of laxatives can cause diarrhea, intestinal obstruction, and shifts in electrolytes. It is also important to note that laxatives may interact with other medications, so it is advisable to check with a doctor before taking them.

Antidiarrheal medications, on the other hand, work by slowing down the movement of the gut, reducing the number of bowel movements, and making stools less watery. Loperamide, a common antidiarrheal drug, may cause side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness, tiredness, and constipation. In rare cases, it may also lead to severe constipation, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and irregular heartbeat. It is important to seek medical help if any of these side effects occur or if symptoms of diarrhea persist or worsen after taking antidiarrheal medications.

Both laxatives and antidiarrheal medications can be effective in treating bowel problems, but they should be used with caution and under medical supervision to avoid potential side effects. It is also important to note that these medications should not be used for weight loss, as this can lead to health complications.

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