Three best laxatives

Ana Sanchez

Constipation is typically described as having fewer than three bowel movements per week.

When constipation strikes, the last thing you want to do is linger in the pharmacy aisle as you try to choose from all the laxatives on display. Besides being a tad embarrassing, constipation is uncomfortable. However, you don't have to forgo an informed decision for a swift one. We're here to help clear up your questions about choosing a laxative to clear out your system. We've outlined the main considerations below so you can find the right one for your needs.

Considerations when choosing laxatives

Causes of constipation

Constipation, when you have difficulty producing a bowel movement, is common. It can be caused by numerous factors like poor eating habits or medication. To temporarily relieve constipation, there are over-the-counter laxatives that help soften stool so that you are no longer straining when you go to the bathroom. Not a long-term solution for constipation -- or a substitute for a high-fiber diet -- laxatives nonetheless offer a quick fix for a blocked-up digestive system.

There are numerous causes of constipation that keep you straining in the bathroom. Fortunately, a lot of them can be resolved by lifestyle choices.

Poor diet: Not getting enough fiber in your diet (like fruits and vegetables, the crunchier the better) can harden stool and make it more difficult to pass.

Lack of exercise: Exercise is important to your health for so many reasons, and one of them is that it helps jostle your insides to stimulate a bowel movement.

Medications and supplements: Some vitamins and medications can cause constipation, or dehydration that results in constipation.

Chronic conditions and illness: Any sort of condition or illness that keeps you bedridden may result in constipation due to inactivity. Also some cancers or obstructions in the digestive tract can cause constipation.

Safety considerations

Laxatives are only designed for short-term use. Long-term abuse of laxatives can result in electrolyte imbalance, potentially leading to heart problems. It's important to speak with your doctor before taking a laxative because it could contraindicate with some medications or interfere with nutrient absorption. Lastly, there is always a chance that constipation is a result of a serious condition, so do consult with a healthcare practitioner if laxatives aren't helping.

Laxative features

There are different types of laxatives that work in different ways to achieve the same result: less straining in the bathroom. These laxatives come in three forms: capsule, powder, or suppository.

Bulk-forming laxatives, also known as fiber supplements, are typically mixed with a large glass of liquid. They work by stimulating your intestinal muscles to contract. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids if using this type of laxative or you could become even more constipated.

Osmotics are laxatives that are taken orally and direct water into the intestines to prevent constipation. You must drink water regularly when taking these products to avoid dehydration.

Stool softeners are also taken orally and increase moisture in the stool, softening it so that bowel movements pass more easily.

Stimulants are oral laxatives that stimulate the intestinal muscles to contract and signal your digestive tract to get things moving. These are to be avoided during pregnancy, and to avoid dependency, they should not to be taken too often.

Suppositories, the fastest-acting laxative, are inserted into the rectum where they work both to stimulate contractions and soften the stool.


Q. How much fiber should I be eating?

A. Adults should consume 30 grams of fiber per day. Fruit and vegetables are a good source of dietary fiber, as are some high-fiber cereals and grains. In addition, be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid constipation.

Q. How does a suppository laxative work?

A. This form of laxative can be a little more awkward than taking a capsule. Suppositories are inserted in the rectum using your finger. The suppository then dissolves and is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream for fast-acting results.

Laxatives we recommend

Best of the best: MiraLAX Powder Laxative 

Our take: This gentle powder laxative is safe on sensitive stomachs while also getting the job done.

What we like: Once mixed in water, this tasteless powder dissolves with no leftover "grit." It has none of the side effects like pain, gas, or bloat that come with other laxatives.

What we dislike: This product is a bit pricey at around $20 and can take up to 24 hours to work.

Best bang for your buck: Phillips' Laxative Caplets 

Our take: This budget-priced laxative is gentle enough for the whole family (though we always recommend consulting with a doctor before giving a laxative to a child).

What we like: These easy-to-swallow magnesium caplets are stimulant free and don't cause any cramping.

What we dislike: While more palatable than milk of magnesia, these caplets work more slowly than their liquid counterpart.

Choice 3: Fleet Liquid Glycerin Suppositories 

Our take: For immediate results, these suppository laxatives are your best bet.

What we like: These suppositories work fast -- within 15 to 60 minutes -- or even instantly. No cramping is associated with this product.

What we dislike: Mastering the use of a suppository takes time and can be unpleasant.

Ana Sanchez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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