Laxatives

Cautions

Laxatives can cause side effects, which vary between the different types.

For example:

  • bulk-forming laxatives can cause bloating and flatulence (wind)
  • stimulant laxatives can cause abdominal (tummy) pain; using them for long periods of time can result in a weakened or 'lazy' bowel
  • osmotic laxatives can cause abdominal pain, bloating and flatulence
  • stool softener laxatives can cause abdominal cramps, a feeling like you are going to be sick (nausea) and a skin rash

Make sure you stay well hydrated when taking laxatives by drinking plenty of fluids. At least two litres (six to eight glasses) of water a day is recommended.

Less common side effects include:

  • being sick (vomiting)
  • dizziness - do not drive or use tools or machinery if you feel dizzy
  • passing blood out with your stools
  • fainting 

If you experience any of these less common side effects then stop taking the laxatives and contact your GP for advice.

Avoiding long-term use

In most cases, you should only take laxatives occasionally and on a short-term basis. Using laxatives frequently or every day can be harmful.

Using laxatives on a long-term basis can make your body dependent on them, so your bowel no longer functions properly without the medication.

Overusing laxatives can also cause:

If you need to use laxatives more regularly, or if you have been taking them for more than a week, see your GP for advice.

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