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How do stimulant laxatives relieve constipation?

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Stimulant laxatives are prescribed by doctors to empty the bowels before a medical procedure and to treat people for constipation. They work by inducing contractions in the intestinal wall, increasing the movement of stools. Other laxatives change the texture of the stools or modify the intestinal environment.

Rectal stimulant laxatives
Rectal stimulant laxatives are stimulant laxatives administered rectally to help produce a bowel movement. Rectal stimulant laxatives work by directly stimulating the intestinal muscles, causing them to contract, moving the stool through the intestines and eliminating it. Rectal stimulant laxatives are available under brand names like Fleet Bisacodyl and Dulcolax in suppository or enema form.

Oral stimulant laxatives
Oral stimulant laxatives are fast-acting and are taken to produce a bowel movement. Oral stimulants help your body by generating steady contractions in your intestinal muscles. These contractions help to move your stool through your intestines and out of your body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.