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KatawaGrey's avatar

[NSFW] How does a laxative do what it does?

Asked by KatawaGrey (21335 points ) September 28th, 2011

Now, I know that laxatives basically make you poop more than normal, but how exactly do they cause that to happen?

I’m wondering because I bought some “slimming tea” a few weeks ago. I just had my second cup of it today and decided to do a little research on the active ingredients in the tea. The main herb in it is something called Garcinia and after a bit of research, I found that it is a laxative.

I’m a little reticent to keep putting something in my body if I don’t know exactly what it does, so naturally, I turn to the collective. How exactly does laxative do its thing?

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8 Answers

Facade's avatar

Most of them cause the walls of your intestines to contract, which causes you to poop more. I like to use senna leaf tea as a laxative if needed. Just be careful because your body can become dependent upon them, and it’s possible that the intestines won’t contract on their own without the laxatives. The best thing to do to make your bowel movements more regular is to eat a diet that’s mostly fruits, veggies, and grains, and make sure that you get plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber daily. Also, exercising keeps the intestines healthy so that they contract efficiently on their own.

Rarebear's avatar

There are two mechanisms. One is as @Facade said, in that they are promotility agents—they cause colonic contractions. The other is osmotic, i.e. you drink a highly osmotic compound and it pushes the stool out, sort of like a garden hose.

Examples of a promotility laxatives are Ducolax, senna, ex-lax. Examples of osmotic laxatives are Miralax, Milk of Magnesia, and magnesium citrate.

The promotility laxatives should not be taken on a long term basis as your colon can become accustomed to them and you become dependant. The osmotic laxatives are much safer, assuming that your kidneys are normal and can handle any electrolytes that happen to be absorbed.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
JLeslie's avatar

I agree with @zensky prunes or raisins and drink a glass of water at the same time.

Laxatives like Ducolax, as rarebear pointed out these increase contractions, can be downright abusive to your system. Always take half whatever is recommended if you have never taken it before. See how it works on you. I would never want to become dependent on this sort of drug.

As for the tea. If you are drinking it to weigh less, emptying your colon obviously does nothing for the fat on your body. It might make your tummy a little flatter temporarily if you tend to get constipated.

zensky's avatar

You can’t agree with me @JLeslie because apparently prunes get moderated.

Rarebear's avatar

I’m not sure how prunes work, actually. I think they’re osmotic.

zensky's avatar

Prunes as a Laxative?

By: Rachel Mork

You’ve probably heard of using prunes as a laxative, and the people who recommend this approach know what they’re talking about. Prunes and prune juice are two of the most commonly used fast-acting laxatives. Prunes and prune juice are considered a safe laxative that can be counted on to deliver results time and time again.

Why Do Prunes Act as a Laxative?

Prunes and prune juice contain high concentrations of simple sugars, which are known as sorbitol. These simple sugars cannot be digested, causing your intestines to flood with fluid, softening your stools and moving your bowels. One cup of prunes contains 12 grams of fiber, which will help get your system going even faster than the juice alone. Prunes also contain dihydrophenylsatin, a natural laxative agent.

Who Should Use Prunes as a Laxative?

Prunes are safe for use at any age, but some people find prunes more palatable than others. You may find it difficult to eat the amount of prunes or drink the amount of prune juice needed to get your bowels moving. Some people find mixing prune juice and either apple or pear juice makes it more palatable. Apple juice and pear juice are also good laxatives on their own, so these are excellent choices. If you eat dried prunes, make sure to follow them up with a glass of water to aid in the process.

How Much Prune Juice Should You Drink?
You’ll want to err on the side of caution when it comes to prune juice. If you drink too much, you could have an explosive and painful experience. Start with a half cup of prune juice mixed with a half cup of pear or apple juice. Follow this with a glass of water if the taste bothers you or if you suspect you are dehydrated. If you are hungry, nibble on a bran muffin and wait for signs that you body is responding. It’s a good idea to go for a short walk or to move around as you wait. Movement helps your bowels move; sedentary lifestyles contribute to constipation.

If you don’t feel any movement in an hour, try a quarter cup of prune juice mixed with a quarter cup of pear or apple juice, followed with a half cup of canned pears. Follow this with another walk. After this, try drinking water. Pretty soon, you are going to feel the effects. This is a process you don’t want to rush, so take your time and be patient.

Sourcesky

thesparrow's avatar

I take senna laxatives around that time of month.. I just can never deal with the bloating otherwise, unfortunately. But laxatives are, in general, something to be avoided and dealt with carefully.

Well, my advice is to see if it’s making you go to the bathroom a lot. It’s not advisable to take laxatives for a long duration. Also, going to the bathroom doesn’t really ‘slim’ you… all you’re doing is getting rid of waste in your body, but you’re not burning fat.

@zensky I do prunes, too! I make prune compote. I boil prunes in water for about an hr. It’s good.

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