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Fiber Laxative

Fiber laxatives are available by prescription or over the counter.

Fiber Laxative

A fiber laxative helps people suffering from constipation. A laxative helps loosen the stool and increases the chances of bowel movements. Some people use laxatives to speed up the amount of time it takes to eliminate waste from the body. Fiber laxatives are also known as bulk-forming laxatives and can help with other conditions besides constipation. People use laxatives to help provide relief during pregnancy, before a surgery, after a surgery to help avoid straining and to get the body back on the right track after a bout of poor nutrition.

How Fiber Laxatives Work

There are six types of fiber laxatives:

  • Calcium polycarbophil
  • Methylcellulose
  • Fructan
  • Psyllium
  • Malt soup extract
  • Psyllium hydrophilic muciloid

The Mayo Clinic describes a fiber laxative as one that is not digested by the body, but rather it absorbs liquid in the body, specifically in the intestine, and swells into a large, soft bulky mass. The mass then stimulates the bowels to move, which helps relieve constipation sufferers.

How to Take Fiber Laxatives

Laxative users can either get a prescription for a laxative or use an over-the-counter brand, like Metamucil. No matter the type of laxative, users should drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day when taking laxatives. Since many fiber laxatives are powder or granular form, it's important that users don't try to take the laxative dry. The package directions will instruct users how to take the product and gives the suggested amount of liquid to take with the laxative.

It is important that fiber laxative users take the laxative properly to ensure it delivers the desired effect. Since a fiber laxative works by creating a bulky mass, if a user does not drink enough fluids, the mass can cause an intestinal blockage. The Mayo Clinic recommends drinking at least eight ounces of water or juice when taking the laxative, and then again after taking the laxative. Users can expect to see results over the next couple of days. RX List recommends not using a laxative for more than seven days consecutively.

Fiber Laxatives Compared to Other Laxatives

There are a number of other laxative products on the market, all of them producing the same result with some differing side effects. According to Medical News Today, the other types of laxatives include:

  • Foods -- Certain foods act as a natural laxative and help prevent constipation. Foods such as almonds, bananas, cranberry, figs, soybeans, walnut and yams are all foods that can help those that suffer from frequent constipation. Relying strictly on foods isn't as effective as a fiber laxative since it may take a few days before the foods help the body push out waste.
  • Stool softeners -- This product helps relieve constipation by pulling in fluids and fats that affect waste matter. Stool softeners help with occasional constipation, but become less effective with continued use.
  • Lubricants, such as mineral oil, work by lubricating the intestine and helping waste matter move smoothly through the body. Lubricants work a little quicker than fiber laxatives, usually taking just six to eight hours for a result.
  • Hydrating laxatives -- These include saline laxatives and hyperosmotic agents. Saline laxatives affect the intestines by retaining water in the intestines and helping the stool push through the body. Saline laxatives also cause the body to react with a certain amount of pressure, increasing the rapid release of waste. Hyperosmotic agents include rectal suppositories that draw water into the bowel and cause a release. The benefit of these laxatives over fiber laxatives is the immediate result. Users can get quicker relief with hydrating laxatives, sometimes in as little as 30 minutes.
  • Stimulant laxatives -- One of the most common types of stimulant laxatives is castor oil. These laxatives stimulate the colon, causing pressure and contractions that help release waste. Since these are irritants, they can have more severe side effects than a fiber laxative.


Precautions and Side Effects of Fiber Laxatives

There are certain times a person shouldn't take any form of laxative, whether fibrous or medicinal. Anyone with severe abdominal pain that may indicate appendicitis or inflamed bowel should seek medical advice. Also, laxatives are not for people who only have one or two days of a missed bowel movement. One side effect of laxatives may include dependency. Some people become so dependent on laxatives their body has a hard time eliminating waste without one. Other side effects include skin rashes, intestinal blockage and difficulty swallowing. Any laxative user should seek medical advice if experiencing any of these side effects.

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