Stool Softener Pros & Cons

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Stool softeners can be a great aid in the relief of constipation and other bowel obstruction conditions. If used properly, stool softeners pose no real threat to those taking them. However, there is a pro and con side to taking stool softeners. The advantages usually outweigh the disadvantages. Learn the basic pros and cons of taking stool softeners.

Stool Softeners

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Stool softeners aid in easing the pain of constipation, dry stools and straining. A stool softener may be needed if the following conditions are present. If having less than three bowel movements a week, a stool softener may help. An abrupt decrease in bowel movements may be a sign that a stool softener is needed. Feelings of bloating, hard stools and the stomach still feeling full after a bowel movement may also indicate a stool softener is needed.

Common brand names of stool softeners include Citrucel, Colace Stool Softener, Correctol, Fiber Choice Chewable and Metamucil. These brands usually take about 12 hours to three days to work.

Aiding Constipation

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Constipation can come and go or be a chronic condition. Constipation usually can be managed from a change in diet. Constipation results from low-fiber diet, not exercising or not taking in enough water. Putting off a bowel movement when the urge is present can also induce constipation. For these reasons, a suitable stool softener will be beneficial. Stool softeners loosen up the bowel by giving moisture to it. This makes for an easier passage.

Comes in Many Forms

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Stool softeners come in pill, chewable and liquid form. This is a valuable "pro" to stool softeners, because those who need stool softeners have a variety of forms to choose from.

Safety First

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Another pro to stool softeners is the safety level for children, the elderly and pregnant women. Children may need stool softeners from holding bowel movements in. Elderly ones may have problems with regular bowel movements because of their age and diet. Stool softeners are a safe way for the elderly to have a bowel movement. Pregnancy usually brings on constipation so stool softeners are beneficial for pregnant women.

Stool softeners are also a good agent in helping with the pain from anal fissures or hemorrhoids. Again allow anywhere from two to three days for a stool softener to work. Do not use stool softeners to relieve constipation.

Now the Bad News

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Though stool softeners are generally safe, there may be some interaction when taken with over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Do not use stool softeners with mineral oil or other lubricant laxatives. Talk with your doctor if taking any other OTC drugs to see if there could be a possible harmful interaction.

Stool softeners may also cause more common discomforts like nausea, cramps and vomiting. There can also be a stool softener dependency, where bowel movements will not happen naturally.


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Stool softeners become toxic and increase absorption of internal lubricant laxatives. If this toxin becomes absorbed in the body, inflammation in the liver will become present. There will also be inflammation in the spleen and lymph nodes. It is important to consult with a doctor on these matters if taking a lubricant laxative and before starting a stool softener.