Laxatives And Hernia: A Risky Mix?

can laxatives cause hernia

Laxatives are products that help people empty their bowels, and they come in many types. Stool softeners are a type of laxative, but not all laxatives are stool softeners. Laxatives are often used to treat constipation, which is a common issue after hernia surgery. However, it's not advisable to take laxatives when you have a hernia unless a doctor approves it. This is because laxatives can have side effects and may interact with other medications. In some cases, they can also lead to dependency, especially if overused. Therefore, it's important to consult a doctor before taking laxatives, especially if you have a hernia or other medical conditions.

Characteristics Values
Can laxatives cause hernia? Laxatives can cause hernias to become worse. Straining when constipated can increase pressure in your abdomen, which may increase your risk of developing a hernia.
What is a hernia? A hernia is when part of an internal organ or tissue bulges through an opening in your abdominal wall or groin.
What is constipation? Constipation is when you have fewer than three bowel movements per week.
What causes constipation? Hernias can cause constipation. Constipation can also be caused by certain medications, such as antacids, antidepressants, calcium and iron supplements, and painkillers.
How to treat constipation? There are various treatments for constipation, including drinking more water, eating more fibre, taking laxatives or stool softeners, and making lifestyle changes such as getting more exercise.


Laxatives and hernia surgery recovery

Hernias can cause constipation, which can be a very uncomfortable experience. However, laxatives may not be the best option for treating constipation after hernia surgery. This is because laxatives can have side effects, and in some cases, they may not be safe to use.

After hernia surgery, constipation can occur due to the effects of general anaesthesia, which can cause the peristalsis (muscle contractions) of the intestines to stop. This can result in hardened stools that are difficult to pass. While laxatives can help with constipation, they should only be used under medical supervision.

  • Drink eight or more glasses of water a day to soften the stool and prevent dehydration.
  • Eat a high-fibre diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, to promote softer and easier bowel movements.
  • Take a gentle stool softener, such as Colace, but only after consulting with your doctor.
  • Try natural remedies like prune juice, which is rich in fibre and sorbitol, aiding bowel movements.
  • Get light exercise, such as walking, to stimulate the natural contraction of muscles in the gastrointestinal tract and reduce the time food takes to move into the large intestine.
  • Avoid straining yourself or lifting heavy objects, especially during the first few weeks after surgery, to prevent tearing of the surgical incisions.

If you experience severe abdominal pain, fever, swelling, bleeding, excessive sweating, or worsening pain, seek immediate medical attention, as these could be signs of a more serious condition.

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Hernias and constipation

The link between hernias and constipation lies in the impact of constipation on the abdominal muscles and connective tissues. When a person is constipated, they often have to strain and push forcefully to pass stools, which puts immense pressure on the abdominal and pelvic region. Over time, this internal pressure can weaken the abdominal wall, creating an environment conducive to the development of hernias.

Chronic constipation is a recognised risk factor for inguinal hernias, which are more common in men. Inguinal hernias occur when a portion of the intestine or abdominal tissue pushes through a weakened area in the lower abdominal wall near the groin. The strain caused by constipation can contribute to the development of this type of hernia. Additionally, constipation can lead to coughing and straining, which are also recognised factors in the development of inguinal hernias.

To prevent constipation and reduce the risk of developing a hernia, it is recommended to eat more high-fibre foods, drink plenty of water, and maintain physical activity. These measures help soften stools and promote regular bowel movements.

In severe cases, constipation with a hernia may indicate intestinal obstruction, which requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of intestinal obstruction include severe abdominal pain, inability to pass gas, swelling in the abdomen, and loud sounds coming from the abdomen.

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Hernias and bowel obstruction

Hernias occur when a weakness in the muscular wall of the abdomen allows organs and tissues to push through. This can happen when there is a tear in the abdominal wall or abdominal muscles, usually leading to hernias appearing around the belly button, or near or around the groin (known as inguinal hernias).

When a hernia develops, it can cause several symptoms, including:

  • Severe pain in the lower abdomen
  • General abdominal pain
  • Bulges around the abdomen
  • Soreness and burning sensations around the bulge
  • Minor pain, aching, or a pressing sensation at the hernia site

Any action that exerts pressure on the abdomen, such as heavy lifting, jogging, or bowel movements, can exacerbate the discomfort.

Hernias can affect parts of the intestines, which may impact the normal digestion process, resulting in constipation. A hernia may lead to a partial or total blockage of the intestines, which can result in constipation. In severe cases, a hernia may cause a complete blockage of the intestines, known as an intestinal or bowel obstruction, which is a medical emergency.

Constipation is a common issue after hernia surgery, and it can be uncomfortable. It is recommended to drink plenty of water, eat fibre-rich foods, and take a stool softener to help relieve constipation. Laxatives are also an option but should be a last resort as they can have side effects.

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Laxatives and their side effects

Laxatives are medicines that stimulate or facilitate bowel movements. They are commonly used to relieve constipation. There are five primary types of over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives: osmotics, bulk formers, oral stool softeners, stimulants, and rectal suppositories.


Osmotics are taken orally and help make the passage of stool easier by drawing water into the colon. Popular brands of osmotics include Phillips' Milk of Magnesia.

Bulk formers

Bulk formers are also taken orally and prompt normal intestinal muscle contraction by absorbing water to form a soft, bulky stool. Examples include Metamucil and FiberCon.

Oral stool softeners

Oral stool softeners make hard stools softer and easier to pass with less strain. Colace is an example of a stool softener.


Stimulants are taken orally and encourage bowel movements by triggering rhythmic contractions of the intestinal muscles. Examples include Senna (Senokot, Ex-Lax) and Bisacodyl (Correctol, Doxidan, Dulcolax).

Rectal suppositories

Rectal suppositories are taken rectally and soften stool and trigger rhythmic contractions of the intestinal muscles.

Side effects of laxatives

Laxatives can have side effects, and it is important to be aware of these before taking them. Common side effects include:

  • Increased constipation (if not taken with enough water)
  • Dehydration, which can cause lightheadedness, headaches, and darker urine
  • Diarrhea
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Allergic reactions such as skin rash or itching
  • Swallowing difficulty (feeling of lump in throat)

It is important to drink plenty of fluids when taking laxatives to avoid dehydration. Laxatives can also interact with other medications, so it is important to check with a doctor or pharmacist before taking them.

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Constipation and home remedies

Constipation is a common issue that can be uncomfortable and even painful. It occurs when you pass fewer than three bowel movements per week or have bowel movements that are hard and difficult to pass. It is usually a symptom of an underlying issue. Constipation can be caused by a hernia, which is when an organ pushes through an opening in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. Hernias are most common in the abdomen but can also appear in the upper thigh, belly button, and groin area. Hernias can cause a partial or total blockage of the intestines, resulting in constipation.

  • Drink plenty of water: Aim for at least 64 ounces per day, unless you have health conditions that require you to limit your water intake. Water helps soften the stool and prevent dehydration, a common cause of constipation.
  • Eat more fiber: Increase your dietary fiber intake, especially soluble, non-fermentable fiber. Fiber adds bulk to stools, making them easier to pass, and helps them move through the digestive system more quickly. High-fiber foods include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity, particularly walking, helps stimulate the gut and improve digestion. It is recommended that adults get about 150 minutes of exercise per week.
  • Try osmotic laxatives: Osmotic laxatives, such as polyethylene glycol, are a mild type of laxative. They work by drawing water into the colon, softening the stool, and making it easier to pass.
  • Use stimulant laxatives: Stimulant laxatives stimulate muscles in the GI tract walls to contract, speeding up bowel movements. They work faster than osmotic laxatives but may cause side effects like cramping and diarrhoea.
  • Try natural remedies: Natural remedies like probiotics may help treat and prevent constipation. Probiotics are live, beneficial bacteria that occur naturally in the gut and can improve digestive health and balance gut bacteria.
  • Try a low FODMAP diet: A low FODMAP diet is an elimination diet that helps treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and may relieve IBS-related constipation.
  • Eat prebiotic foods: Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrate fibers that improve digestive health by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Prebiotic foods include Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, and asparagus.
  • Try magnesium citrate: Magnesium citrate is a popular over-the-counter home remedy for constipation. It is a type of osmotic laxative that helps soften stool and improve bowel movements.
  • Try prune juice: Prunes and prune juice are a natural remedy for constipation as they contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that has a laxative effect.
  • Avoid dairy: For people with dairy intolerance, removing dairy from the diet can help relieve constipation.
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Frequently asked questions

It is not recommended to take laxatives without consulting a doctor first. Hernias can cause partial or complete bowel obstruction, and laxatives may not be able to pass through your gastrointestinal tract in the case of a complete obstruction.

Doctors may recommend stool softeners, which are a gentler form of laxative. They can also suggest drinking more water, eating more fibre, and doing light exercise.

Hernia symptoms include a bulge in your abdomen or groin that may come and go, burning or sharp pain, trouble having a bowel movement, infrequent bowel movements, and swelling in your scrotum.

Yes, straining while constipated can increase pressure in your abdomen, which may increase your risk of developing a hernia.

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