Laxatives: Friend Or Foe During A Colitis Flare?

can I take laxative during colotis attack

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause constipation, which is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week. Constipation can be treated with laxatives, but it's important to speak to a doctor before taking any new medication. Laxatives are a type of medicine that make you pass stools more frequently and can be bought over the counter or with a prescription. They work by drawing moisture into the bowel, softening stools, lubricating the bowel, or stimulating the muscles in the bowels. However, they should be used with caution as they can have adverse effects and may not be suitable for everyone.

Characteristics Values
Occurrence 30%-50% of people with ulcerative colitis experience constipation
Symptoms Reduced stool frequency, hard stools, abdominal pain, excessive gas, straining, sensation of incomplete emptying
Treatment Lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, water intake), medication (laxatives, stool softeners, prescription drugs)
Risk Factors Female gender, left-sided colitis, active disease, older age, dietary choices, underlying conditions


Laxatives can be used to treat constipation caused by ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic disease that affects the lining of the large intestine, causing inflammation and ulceration. While diarrhoea is a common symptom, constipation can also occur. Constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week, with stools that are hard, dry, and difficult or painful to pass.

There are several types of laxatives that can be used to treat constipation caused by ulcerative colitis:

  • Osmotic laxatives: These help the stool absorb water, softening it and making it easier to pass. Examples include oral magnesium hydroxide and polyethylene glycol.
  • Stool softeners: These contain docusate sodium, which brings water into the stool, making it easier to pass.
  • Fiber supplements: Also called bulk-forming laxatives, these increase the size of the stool. However, they may worsen constipation in some people with ulcerative colitis, so caution is advised.
  • Stimulant laxatives: These force the colon to contract and are sometimes used for short-term relief in severe cases. They can cause side effects like stomach cramps, dehydration, and mineral imbalance, and long-term use may lead to dependence.

In addition to laxatives, there are other treatments for constipation caused by ulcerative colitis, including lifestyle changes and prescription medications. It is important to follow a doctor's advice and monitor how your body responds to any changes in diet, exercise, or medication.

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Laxatives are a type of medication that increases the frequency of bowel movements

There are several types of laxatives, including bulk-forming laxatives, osmotic laxatives, stimulant laxatives, and stool softener laxatives. Bulk-forming laxatives, also known as fiber supplements, increase the bulk of stools by getting them to retain liquid, which encourages the bowels to push them out. Osmotic laxatives soften the stool by increasing the amount of water secreted into the bowels. Stimulant laxatives stimulate the digestive tract walls, speeding up bowel movements. Stool softener laxatives decrease the surface tension of stools so that they absorb more water, making them softer.

Laxatives are typically taken by mouth in the form of liquids, tablets, or capsules, but they can also be administered through the rectum using suppositories or enemas. They are usually available over the counter without a prescription, but it is important to use them sparingly and only when necessary. People with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis should not take laxatives unless specifically instructed to do so by their doctor.

While laxatives can be effective in relieving constipation, they should be used with caution as they can have side effects and may lead to adverse effects if misused or overused. For example, stimulant laxatives may cause abdominal cramps and diarrhea, and excessive or prolonged use of laxatives can lead to intestinal obstruction and electrolyte imbalances. Additionally, some laxatives may interact with other medications, so it is important to consult a doctor or healthcare professional before taking them, especially if one has an underlying gastrointestinal condition.

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There are different types of laxatives, including osmotic laxatives and bulk-forming laxatives

Bulk-forming laxatives, on the other hand, are different from osmotic laxatives in that they are most similar to stool softeners. They help the bowels retain water and do not stimulate nerves that speed up bowel movement. Common bulk-forming laxatives include psyllium (Metamucil), polycarbophil (FiberCon), and methylcellulose (Citrucel). They are generally considered the gentlest type of laxative and are often the first line of defence before stimulant laxatives.

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Laxatives should be used with caution and under medical guidance to avoid adverse effects

Laxatives are a common treatment for ulcerative colitis constipation. However, they should be used with caution and under medical guidance to avoid adverse effects. While laxatives can be effective in stimulating or facilitating bowel movements, they can also have side effects and risks.

One of the potential side effects of laxatives is increased constipation, especially if they are not taken with enough water. This is a particular concern for people with ulcerative colitis, as the condition can cause dehydration. Additionally, laxatives can interact with other medications, including heart medications, antibiotics, and bone medications. It is important to consult a doctor or pharmacist to ensure that the laxative will not interact negatively with other prescriptions.

Laxative use can also lead to dependency, especially with overuse. The intestines can lose muscle and nerve response, resulting in a dependence on laxatives for bowel movements. This can be difficult to remedy and restore the colon's ability to contract.

Furthermore, some laxatives can cause metabolic disturbances, particularly in individuals with renal impairment. Osmotic laxatives containing poorly absorbable ions, such as magnesium or phosphate, are more likely to cause these disturbances. Polyethylene glycol solutions have emerged as an effective and safe treatment for chronic constipation.

It is worth noting that stimulant laxatives, such as senna compounds and bisacodyl, are commonly used. However, there are concerns about their potential link to colonic neoplasia and structural changes in the intestine, although epidemiological data has not established a clear connection. Nonetheless, danthron compounds, a type of stimulant laxative, should be avoided due to hepatotoxicity.

In conclusion, while laxatives can be a helpful treatment for constipation in people with ulcerative colitis, they should be used cautiously and only under the guidance of a medical professional. The potential side effects and risks associated with laxatives can be serious, and it is important to consider alternative treatments, such as dietary and lifestyle changes, before resorting to laxatives.

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Lifestyle changes, such as increasing fluid intake and dietary fibre, may also help relieve constipation

Lifestyle Changes to Help Relieve Constipation

Constipation is a common problem, affecting up to 20% of people annually. It is characterised by less than three bowel movements a week, with stools that are hard, dry, and difficult to pass. While it is typically recommended to increase fluid intake and dietary fibre to alleviate constipation, this advice does not work for everyone.

Increasing Fluid Intake

Hydration is essential for healthy gastrointestinal function. Aim to drink about 2 litres of water per day, as this can help soften stools and make them easier to pass. Keep water close by throughout the day and take sips every 20 minutes. It is also advisable to limit caffeinated drinks like coffee and cola, as caffeine is a diuretic, which can increase the risk of diarrhoea and dehydration.

Increasing Dietary Fibre Intake

Dietary fibre is found in all plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. It is typically classified into two groups: insoluble fibre and soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre, found in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains, bulks up the stool and acts like a brush to sweep through the bowels. Soluble fibre, found in oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and some fruits and vegetables, absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance, helping the stool pass smoothly through the bowels.

While increasing fibre intake can be beneficial, it is important to note that too much fibre may worsen constipation if insufficient fibre is not the cause. Additionally, for those with ulcerative colitis, high fibre foods and supplements should be avoided during flare-ups as they can increase abdominal bloating and discomfort.

Other Lifestyle Changes

In addition to increasing fluid and fibre intake, regular physical activity can help prevent constipation. Engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week may help stimulate bowel movements.

For those with ulcerative colitis, specific lifestyle changes may be recommended, such as tracking bowel movements, striving for regularity without straining, and avoiding delaying bowel movements.

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Frequently asked questions

Laxatives are not typically recommended during a colitis attack, as they can lead to adverse effects and may worsen your symptoms. It is best to consult with your doctor before taking any laxatives, especially if you have ulcerative colitis.

Common side effects of taking laxatives include discomfort, cramps, and dehydration. Prolonged use of laxatives can also lead to an electrolyte imbalance and may cause your body to become dependent on them for bowel movements.

Yes, increasing your fluid intake, exercising regularly, and making dietary changes such as consuming more fibre can help relieve constipation. These strategies are typically recommended as the first line of treatment before considering laxatives.

There are several types of laxatives, including osmotic laxatives, bulk-forming laxatives, stool softeners, and stimulant laxatives. Each type works differently, and it is important to consult your doctor to determine which type is suitable for you.

The time for laxatives to take effect varies depending on the type and individual factors. Some laxatives can work within an hour, while others may take up to a week. Osmotic laxatives, for example, are slow-acting and can take up to 2-3 days to produce a bowel movement.

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