When to choose stool softeners for constipation


Stool softeners are over-the-counter products used to soften hard stools or prevent constipation . Before deciding to try stool softeners, it's a good idea to find out how they work and how safe they are. It will also help if you know when you decide to use them instead of a laxative .

Stool softeners come as capsules, liquids, and tablets that you can take by mouth. Brands include Colace, Correctol, Diocto, Doxinate, Ex-Lax Stool Softener, Fleet Sof-Lax, Modane Soft, Phillips' Stool Softener, and Surfak.

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How Stool Softeners Work

Stool softeners work by increasing the amount of moisture in the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. Therefore, you will tune in to a more comfortable bowel movement that does not require stress.

The main active ingredient in over-the-counter stool softeners is docusat. The drug is believed to act locally in the colon .

Most stool softeners should soften your stool and make you have a bowel movement within 12 to 72 hours (three days).

How to drink

A stool softener is usually taken before bed. Be sure to follow the directions on the package and stick to the exact recommended dosage.

If you choose a capsule or pill, drink a full 8-ounce glass of water while taking the medicine. Regardless of the type of product you use, remember to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

Stool softeners are for short-term use. This means that you will be wearing them for about a week.

If you plan to take a stool softener for more than a week, ask your doctor to make sure it is safe for you.


Stool softeners are not absorbed into the bloodstream and are generally well tolerated. Side effects are rare.

Some people may experience mild side effects such as nausea, stomach cramps, and bloating. Throat irritation can result from using the liquid form of the medicine. Stop taking the medicine if you experience any of these mild symptoms.

Get immediate medical attention if you have severe symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Hot
  • Acne
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Threw up

People who take stool softeners regularly may find that they develop a tolerance to the drug and need to increase the dose over time. Long-term use of stool softeners should only be done after consulting your healthcare professional.

Stool softeners may be safe for children or pregnant women, but they should only be used with the permission of your healthcare provider or your child's pediatrician.

Stool softeners versus laxatives

Stool softeners are often considered the best option when you especially need to keep your stools soft to avoid straining during bowel movements. This can include the following circumstances:

On the other hand, laxatives are the best option to treat constipation. If you have not had a bowel movement for several days, taking a laxative will help induce the urge to have a bowel movement.

Laxatives are also the best option for chronic constipation, although they are for short-term use as well.

Frequently asked questions

  • A laxative can take anywhere from half a day to several days to induce a bowel movement, depending on the product and its ingredients.

  • There are many natural remedies for constipation. Increase your fiber intake, drink plenty of fluids, and be active. Assuming an easy squat position with your knees bent can also help you move forward.

  • Over-the- counter laxatives fall into different categories. Bulky laxatives increase stool bulk, while osmotic laxatives draw water into the colon, making stool easier to pass. Stimulant laxatives directly increase the contraction of the intestinal muscles, causing bowel movements.

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