Stimulant Laxatives: Pelvic Floor Dysgernia Aid?

can stimulant laxatives help with pelvic floor dysgernia

Constipation is a common issue, affecting almost everyone at some point in their lives. It is characterised by infrequent bowel movements (less than three per week) and hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass. For those suffering from constipation, laxatives can provide relief. However, it is important to exercise caution when using laxatives, especially stimulant laxatives, as they can have side effects and may lead to dependency if used too frequently or over an extended period of time. While stimulant laxatives can be effective in treating constipation, they should not be the first line of treatment. Instead, dietary and lifestyle changes, such as increasing fibre and fluid intake, are recommended as the initial approach to managing constipation.

Characteristics Values
Definition of Pelvic Floor Dysgernia Refers to the passage of too few bowel movements per week, hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass, a decrease in the size of the stool, or needing to strain to have a bowel movement
Normal Frequency of Bowel Movement 3 times a day to 3 times a week
Causes of Constipation Poor eating habits, diet lacking in fiber and/or fluids, some medications, problems with the function of the pelvic floor muscles
Treatment High-fiber foods, high-fiber supplement, laxatives, stool softeners, enemas
Laxatives Stimulant laxatives, osmotic laxatives, bulk-forming laxatives, stool softeners, lubricants
Stimulant Laxatives Trigger the intestines to contract and push out the stool
Osmotic Laxatives Draw water into the bowel from the surrounding tissues to soften stools and increase bowel movement frequency
Bulk-Forming Laxatives Contain fiber which soaks up the water in the intestines and produces bulkier stool
Stool Softeners Softening dry, hard stool with water that they pull into the stool from the intestine, making it easier to push out
Lubricants Coat the surface of the stool to retain stool fluid and make it easier to push out

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How stimulant laxatives work

Constipation means the bowel does not move easily or regularly. This may manifest as having a bowel movement fewer than three times a week, and the stools may be hard and difficult to pass. Constipation can be caused by irregular meals, a lack of fibre in the diet, a lack of physical activity, medications, irritable bowel syndrome, changes in life or routine, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement, and specific diseases or conditions.

Stimulant laxatives are one of the five types of laxatives, the others being osmotic, bulk-forming, stool softeners, and lubricants. They are used to treat constipation and can be one of the faster-acting types of laxatives. The active ingredient in stimulant laxatives is usually either senna (also known as sennosides) or bisacodyl. They trigger rhythmic contractions in the intestines, which help push out the stool.

Stimulant laxatives should not be used for more than a week unless specifically advised by a doctor. They can be habit-forming and can be harmful to the bowels if used for an extended period. It is also advised not to give stimulant laxatives to children under the age of six unless instructed to do so by a pediatrician.

While stimulant laxatives can be effective in treating constipation, they should be used with caution. It is important to discuss laxative use with a doctor and follow their recommendations.

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The risks of stimulant laxatives

While stimulant laxatives can be used to treat constipation, they are associated with several risks and side effects.

Firstly, stimulant laxatives can be habit-forming, and long-term use can lead to dependence. This means that if used too frequently or for an extended period, the bowel may stop functioning normally, and an individual may become reliant on stimulant laxatives to have a bowel movement. It is recommended that stimulant laxatives are not used for more than a week unless advised by a doctor.

Secondly, stimulant laxatives can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. They may also lead to abdominal pain and, in rare cases, more severe complications such as gastrointestinal perforation.

Additionally, stimulant laxatives may not be suitable for everyone. For example, they should be avoided if an individual has had a previous allergic reaction to any stimulant laxative, has an intestinal blockage, is experiencing undiagnosed rectal bleeding, or is showing signs of appendicitis (severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting). Pregnant or breastfeeding women should also consult a doctor before using stimulant laxatives.

Furthermore, stimulant laxatives can interact with certain medications and health conditions. Therefore, it is crucial to discuss any current health conditions and medications with a doctor before taking stimulant laxatives.

Finally, stimulant laxatives can cause urine to turn a brownish-red colour, especially those containing senna.

In conclusion, while stimulant laxatives can provide relief from constipation, they should be used with caution and only as directed by a healthcare professional due to the associated risks and side effects.

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When to avoid stimulant laxatives

While stimulant laxatives can be effective in treating constipation, they are not recommended for long-term use due to potential health risks. Here are some scenarios when it is advisable to avoid the use of stimulant laxatives:

When There Are Potential Harmful Effects on the Colon

Stimulant laxatives, when used for extended periods, have been associated with harmful long-term effects on the colon. These effects include the possibility of carcinogenic risk. As such, it is important to exercise caution and not exceed the recommended duration of use.

When There Are Potential Side Effects

Stimulant laxatives, such as senna and bisacodyl, can cause abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. Overusing these laxatives or taking them in large amounts can lead to adverse side effects. It is important to follow the recommended dosage and not exceed the suggested duration of use.

When There Are Alternatives Available

For occasional constipation, it is advisable to opt for gentler and safer options first. Bulk-forming laxatives, for example, are a preferred initial choice as they are safe for daily use and effectively relieve constipation by drawing water into the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. Stool softeners are another alternative that helps moisten the stool, making it easier to pass without straining.

When Constipation Persists or Becomes Chronic

If constipation persists for an extended period (generally considered longer than three weeks) or becomes a chronic condition, it is important to consult a doctor. Self-treatment with over-the-counter laxatives is not recommended for long-term use. A doctor can provide guidance on alternative medications or therapies that may be more effective and safer for managing chronic constipation.

When There Are Underlying Health Conditions

For individuals with certain underlying health conditions, it is important to exercise caution when considering the use of stimulant laxatives. For example, those with heart or kidney problems should refrain from using prepackaged enema kits unless specifically directed to do so by a doctor. Additionally, saline osmotic laxatives, which contain magnesium, sulfate, citrate, and phosphate, can be dangerous for individuals with kidney or heart issues.

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How to use stimulant laxatives safely

While stimulant laxatives can be used to treat constipation, they should be used safely and only when necessary. Here are some guidelines on how to use stimulant laxatives safely:

Consult a Doctor First

Before taking any laxatives, it is important to consult your doctor, especially if you are experiencing constipation for the first time, if it has lasted longer than three weeks, or if there are other concerning symptoms such as rectal bleeding, weight loss, fever, or weakness. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the most suitable treatment option and guide you on the correct dosage. It is also crucial to inform your doctor about any current health conditions, medications, and allergies before taking stimulant laxatives.

Understand the Risks and Side Effects

Stimulant laxatives can have side effects, including abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. Prolonged use of stimulant laxatives can lead to dependency, and they may cause harm to your bowels if used for an extended period. Therefore, it is important to follow the directions on the label or your doctor's instructions carefully. Do not use stimulant laxatives for more than a week unless specifically advised by your healthcare provider.

Choose the Right Type of Laxative

Stimulant laxatives are just one type of laxative available. Other options include bulk-forming laxatives, osmotic laxatives, stool softeners, and lubricants. Bulk-forming laxatives, for example, are considered a safer first option as they are gentle and can be used daily. They draw water into the stool to make it softer and easier to pass. Stool softeners and lubricants also moisten the stool, aiding in easier passage. Osmotic laxatives, on the other hand, draw water into the colon to soften stools and increase bowel movements.

Address the Underlying Causes of Constipation

Constipation can be caused by various factors, including dietary and lifestyle choices. By addressing these underlying causes, you may be able to relieve constipation without relying solely on laxatives. Ensure that you are eating a fibre-rich diet with adequate fluids and staying physically active. Regular exercise, drinking enough water, and consuming enough fibre can help improve bowel function and relieve constipation.

Be Mindful of Interactions and Contraindications

Stimulant laxatives may interact with certain medications or health conditions. Inform your doctor about any medications you are currently taking to ensure there are no harmful interactions. Additionally, do not take stimulant laxatives if you have experienced an allergic reaction to them in the past, have any intestinal blockages, undiagnosed rectal bleeding, or signs of appendicitis.

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Stimulant laxatives vs other types of laxatives

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a condition where a person is unable to correctly relax and coordinate the muscles in their pelvic floor to urinate or have a bowel movement. Symptoms include constipation, straining to defecate, urine or stool leakage, and a frequent need to urinate. While there is no known cure for pelvic floor dysfunction, treatments include biofeedback, pelvic floor physical therapy, and medications.

Laxatives are a type of medicine that can treat constipation. They are typically used when lifestyle changes, such as increasing fibre intake, drinking more fluids, and exercising, have not helped. There are several types of laxatives, each working in a different way:

Stimulant Laxatives

Stimulant laxatives, such as bisacodyl and senna, trigger contractions in the bowels that push the stool along. They usually take 6 to 12 hours to work and can be purchased over the counter or prescribed by a doctor. However, taking stimulant laxatives too frequently can lead to dependence, as the bowel may stop functioning normally. Side effects may include stomach discomfort, faintness, cramps, and a sudden urgent bowel movement.

Bulk-Forming Laxatives

Bulk-forming laxatives, also known as fibre laxatives, increase the weight of the stool by drawing water into it, making it softer and easier to pass. They typically take 2 to 3 days to work and are considered safe for daily use. Common side effects include flatulence and bloating. It is important to take these laxatives with water to avoid additional side effects.

Osmotic Laxatives

Osmotic laxatives, such as lactulose and macrogol, draw water from the body into the bowel to soften the stool and increase bowel movements. They usually take 2 to 3 days to work and may cause side effects such as gas, bloating, and nausea.

Stool Softener Laxatives

Stool softeners, like mineral oil, add moisture to the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. They are typically taken at bedtime and can be found in capsule, tablet, liquid, or syrup form. They should be taken exactly as directed by a doctor and are not recommended for long-term use.

Lubricant Laxatives

Lubricant laxatives, such as mineral oil, coat the surface of the stool, helping it to retain fluid and pass more easily. They are often recommended for people with blockages in the anus or rectum. However, they can interfere with the absorption of vitamins and nutrients.

While laxatives can provide relief from constipation, it is important to use them cautiously and not as a long-term solution. They should be used occasionally and for up to a week at a time, discontinuing their use once constipation improves. Overuse of laxatives can lead to dependence and cause side effects such as dehydration, diarrhoea, intestinal obstruction, and imbalances in salts and minerals in the body.

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Frequently asked questions

Stimulant laxatives trigger the intestines to contract and push out the stool. They are one of the faster-acting types of laxatives.

Some of the side effects of stimulant laxatives include abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, and nausea. They can also be habit-forming and harmful to your bowels if used for an extended period of time.

You should not use stimulant laxatives if you have had a previous allergic reaction to them, have any intestinal blockage, are experiencing undiagnosed rectal bleeding, or are experiencing signs of appendicitis.

Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause constipation, and stimulant laxatives can be used to treat constipation. However, it is important to consult with a doctor before using stimulant laxatives, as they can have side effects and may not be suitable for everyone.

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