Stress, a change of diet or a trip can disrupt transit. To remedy this, various laxatives are available in pharmacies. Here is the practical guide. To consume without abusing it!
It is never pleasant. Bloating, a feeling of heaviness or even abdominal pain often accompany a slow transit. If these symptoms remain mild most of the time, however, avoid sliding into chronic constipation , characterized by infrequent stools (less than three per week) or difficult for at least six months.
The first thing to do is to respect your feelings of need. The time spent in the bathroom must be sufficient, and the place sufficiently intimate not to pose any additional problem. It is advisable, if you do not suffer from gluten intolerance or irritable bowel syndrome , to eat more cereals (wheat bran, bran bread) and vegetables and dried fruits (lentils, peas chickens, dried beans, split peas, prunes …). But changing your eating habits takes time and is not always enough. A laxative is then useful.
Several families of laxatives
- The mild laxatives are better tolerated. They increase the hydration of the stools as well as their volume and they modify their consistency, which facilitates transit. The so-called ballast laxatives are composed of vegetable fibers such as wheat bran, guar gum, ispaghul or flax seeds. They act in two to three days. To limit bloating, it is better to gradually increase the dosage. Slightly faster in action, so-called osmotic laxatives are sugars (lactulose, sorbitol, etc.) or large molecules (such as macrogols) which are neither digested nor absorbed by the body.
- The Lubricant laxatives act within 24 hours. based on paraffin oil or petrolatum, they can induce unpleasant anal oozing. Taken for a few months, they sometimes decrease, in some people, the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. They are however interesting if the stools are hard.
- Stimulating laxatives work in 5 to 10 hours, but they irritate the intestinal lining . These are synthetic molecules (bisacodyl, etc.) or plants such as buckthorn, senna, cascara, aloe and rhubarb. By increasing the secretion of water in the intestine and stimulating the mucous membrane, they promote contractions of the digestive tract and allow the evacuation of stools. If they are practical to use because they are available in capsules, tablets or herbal teas, they make the habit of functioning by itself lose in transit. Above all, they are not devoid of side effects: hydration disorders and colitis, in particular. We must therefore ensure that we reserve them for very punctual outlets, to help out, especially on trips, and for 5 to 7 days, 10 maximum.
- Express solutions, suppositories or rectal enema (Microlax), act in less than an hour. They reflexively cause the rectum to contract, but they are uncomfortable to use. If they can be useful occasionally, they should not be used too often because they are irritating. They are not suitable for people prone to hemorrhoidal flares or suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.
Composition: lactulose, a mild osmotic laxative. Neutral aroma.
The +: suitable for the whole family. It is even considered a reference laxative in children. Inexpensive, it can be reimbursed on medical prescription. It can be taken without water.
The -: a little less effective than a macrogol (laxative substance). A bloated feeling and abdominal pain sometimes occur.
In which case ? For the whole family and from the age of 7, in case of occasional constipation.
In practice: from 15 years old, 1 to 3 sachets per day to be taken pure, as is, or diluted in a drink. Between the ages of 7 and 14, 1 sachet per day. Begins to work after 24 to 48 hours.
The pharmacist’s advice: there is a drinkable version in a bottle, which can be administered to children under 7 years of age (measuring cup).
The composition: a mild ballast laxative, composed of apricot pulp, apple puree, prebiotics (fructo-oligosaccharides, 1,105 mg per cube), oat fiber and wheat bran.
The +: fibers of fruit, oats and wheat bran which gently stimulate transit, associated with prebiotics which have a beneficial action on the intestinal flora.
The -: the effect on transit is not immediate. Allow two to three days to observe the effectiveness of the product. Bloating possible due to fructo-oligosaccharides.
In which case ? For the whole family, from 3 years old, in case of temporary constipation or prevention, before a trip for example.
In practice: 1 cube per day to chew for children between 3 and 9 years old. 1 to 2 cubes per day from 10 years and for adults.
The pharmacist’s advice: in a 10 to 15 day course to regulate transit. A prune-fig-grape version is also available.
The composition: a powder of hydrolyzed guar fibers.
The +: extracted from a legume, these soft vegetable fibers behave like a ballast laxative: they increase the volume of stools. A very fine powder with a neutral taste that is easily incorporated into food.
The -: the action is not immediate. Depending on the profile of each, it can occur after 3 to 5 days of use.
In which case ? For the whole family, from 3 years old, to regulate transit in the event of a tendency to constipation.
In practice: to limit bloating, start with a scoop of powder for 2 to 3 days then increase to a maximum of 3 to 4 per day in adults. To be diluted in 200 ml of liquid or in a food (compote, yogurt, soup, etc.).
The pharmacist’s advice: distribute the doses throughout the day: the product does not change the taste or smell of food. In case of bloating, reduce the doses then increase them gradually.
Composition: lactulose, a mild osmotic laxative, combined with paraffin oil and petrolatum, lubricant laxatives. Citrus flavor.
The +: it works in 6 to 8 hours thanks to the presence of paraffin oil. A sugar-free formula. A paste with a rather appreciated taste, and in ready-to-use sachets.
The -: lubricant laxatives can cause anal oozing and irritation, even if their quantity is less than in other drugs (Lansoyl, Transitol, etc.).
In which case ? From 15 years old, for temporary constipation. Avoid in people with swallowing problems.
In practice: 1 sachet per day in the evening. Do not take the medication while lying down or just before going to bed because of the risk of “going wrong”.
The pharmacist’s advice: take vitamin complexes away from the laxative because paraffin oil reduces the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. In any case, do not take it for a prolonged period: one week of treatment to the maximum.
The composition: bisacodyl.
The +: fast action from 5 to 6 hours after taking. A drug that has long been used as a stimulant laxative.
The -: abdominal pain, even diarrhea is possible.
In which case ? From 12 years old, in occasional use, for quick action. Contraindicated in the case of treatment for blood pressure or the heart, as a drop in the potassium level in the blood causing heart rhythm disturbances is possible.
In practice: 1 to 2 tablets per day preferably in the morning (action after 5 hours) or in the evening (effect approximately 10 hours after). Take the tablets with a glass of water without chewing them.
The pharmacist’s advice: stimulant laxatives are also present in certain herbal teas (Herbesan, Boldoflorine or Mediflor Temporary constipation, etc.). Attention, no prolonged use: these plants are irritating for the intestinal mucosa … even in infusion!
The composition: glycerol.
The +: a drug with local action which acts quickly, in 5 to 30 minutes.
The -: a laxative in the form of a suppository, therefore not necessarily pleasant to use. Irritation with burning sensations or bleeding from the rectum is possible with prolonged use.
In which case ? From 15 years, occasional use, for a quick action on constipation. Not recommended in case of tendency to hemorrhoidal flares.
In practice: 1 suppository, 5 to 30 minutes before the chosen time. No more than 2 suppositories per day.
The pharmacist’s advice: there are versions suitable for children and infants. Use only in troubleshooting, as these laxatives are locally irritating. In children, they can cause
the defecation reflex to be lost if they are used repeatedly.