Stool Softeners and Other Cures for Constipation
Stool softeners provide moisture to the stool and prevent dehydration. These laxatives are often recommended to treat constipation that occurs after childbirth or surgery. Products include Colace® and Surfak®.
Lubricants grease the stool, enabling it to move through the intestine more easily. Mineral oil is the most common example.
Saline laxatives act like a sponge to draw water into the colon for easier passage of stool. Laxatives in this group include Phillips' Milk of Magnesia® and Haley's M-O®.
People who are dependent on laxatives need to slowly stop using them. A doctor can assist in this process. In most people, this restores the colon's natural ability to contract.
Treatment for constipation may be directed at a specific cause. For example, the doctor may recommend discontinuing medication or performing surgery to correct an anorectal problem, such as rectal prolapse.
People with chronic constipation caused by anorectal dysfunction can use biofeedback to retrain the muscles that control release of bowel movements. Biofeedback involves using a sensor to monitor muscle activity, which is simultaneously displayed on a computer screen. This allows for an accurate assessment of body functions. A healthcare professional uses this information to help the patient learn how to use these muscles.
Surgical removal of the colon may be an option for people with severe symptoms caused by colonic inertia. However, the benefits of this surgery must be weighed against possible complications, which include abdominal pain (stomach pain) and diarrhea.