Colonic Irrigation vs. Laxatives

Often, those who suffer constipation are likely to resort to the use of laxatives before other treatments as a method of cheaper, easier relief from the issue. However, compared to colonic irrigation, laxatives can have different effects and may cause alternate side effects.

What are laxatives?

Laxatives are a style of medication that aids the emptying of bowels. They are mostly available over the counter (so not formal prescription is required) so access to laxatives is relatively simple. You should only used laxatives as a short-term solution to your problem else you may cause your body to become dependent on them, so you can no longer go to the toilet without the help of laxatives.

How do laxatives work?

There are a variety of types of laxative, each contains different ingredients but are designed to perform the same function of making passing stools easier and more comfortable. This can greatly help people who suffer from constipation (which is most commonly caused by dehydration and/or a lack of fibre in the diet). The four main types of laxative currently available on the market:

  • Stimulant laxatives – These take between 6 and 12 hours to work and are designed to make you bowel movements speed up. This happens as the laxative motivates the muscles along the digestive tracts. There are numerous administration options for stimulant laxatives including: tablets, suppositories, liquids and enemas. Examples of some currently available are Senokot and Normax.
  • Bulk-forming laxatives – These laxatives take a few days to have an effect and are formulated to work by the same mechanisms as dietary fibre (and are, therefore, also marketed as fibre supplements). They work by making your stools more bulky so they retain liquid. This stimulates the bowel to contract and push along the stool. Bulk-forming laxatives are available as tablets, granules or powders (all taken orally) and examples of those currently available are Celevac and Normacol.
  • Stool softener laxatives – This type of laxative works in 24-48 hours. They act by adding water to the faeces. This lubricated them to make the easier and more comfortable to pass. They are obtainable as a capsule or enema and examples are Dulcoease and Docusol.
  • Osmotic laxatives – This form of laxative takes a number of days to show results. They increase the level of water in the bowels themselves. This increases the softness of faeces so they are easier to pass. They are available in numerous forms, such as liquids, powders and enemas. Currently on the market examples are Movicol and Microlette.

Colonic irrigation vs. laxatives

There are numerous obvious differences between colonic irrigation therapy and laxative usage and some that are not so clear. These differences can allow you to justify which option may be more suited to you.

  • What is treated – Colonic irrigation is used to treat a broader variety of colon conditions including constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulosis. On-the-other-hand, laxatives are generally only useful if you know you suffer from constipation and desire results for this problem alone.
  • Ingredients – Laxatives are medicinal products and contain chemicals. In contrast, colonic irrigation treatment only uses clean water without any additives. The chemicals in laxatives can cause beneficial bacteria to be killed in the bowel as well as the harmful bacteria.
  • Dependency – There has been a significant amount of proof stating how many people can become dependent on laxative use to pass stools. This is due to them being overused so the body gets used to only passing faeces when stimulated by a laxative. Colonic irrigation, however, is not associated with such dependency.
  • Digestive system – Laxatives (especially those taken orally) can cause some level of interference with the whole digestive system, rather than just the bowel. This may induce further health issues (although it is not too common). Colonic irrigation does not interfere with the digestive system as a whole as the water is directed only at the bowel/colon target.

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