Constipation can be uncomfortable and frustrating. Sometimes, the only way to ease the pain of constipation is to take an over-the-counter medication. Unfortunately, most constipation medications come with side effects that have equally uncomfortable symptoms.
Though most of the side effects are common in most people, it’s important to monitor your body to ensure you’re not suffering from anything more serious.
Oral osmotics help to hydrate the stool by extracting water from the colon. Milk of Magnesia and Miralax are two popular over-the-counter oral osmotics. Some of the side effects of this type of medication can include bloating, cramping, diarrhea, gas, nausea and dehydration. If your constipation continues after a few days or if side effects persist, stop taking this medication and contact your doctor.
Oral Bulk Formers
Another over-the-counter laxative, oral bulk formers add mass to your stool so your colon and intestines can pass waste through your system. Popular bulk formers include Benefiber, Citrucel, FiberCon and Metamucil.
Side effects include bloating, gas, cramping or worsening constipation. It’s important to take oral bulk formers with plenty of water so they do not increase constipation. It’s common to feel one or more of these side effects within 30 minutes of taking one of these laxatives. Make sure you have enough time to hang out in the bathroom so you can pass stool. You may be on the toilet for up to an hour, so plan accordingly.
Oral Stool Softeners
Oral stool softeners like Colace and Surfak hydrate the stool so it’s easier to flow through the digestive system. When taken too often, it can create an electrolyte imbalance in your system, making it difficult to absorb nutrients through your digestive track.
These stimulants can cause rhythmic contractions in your digestive system, allowing your intestines to keep the movement of stool at a steady pace. Though these stimulants can help to ease the pain of constipation, they can also cause belching, cramping, diarrhea, nausea and urine discoloration. Though some of these symptoms may be uncomfortable or unsettling at first, they are perfectly normal. Talk to your doctor if your constipation does not subside or if the side effects worsen.
Like oral stimulants, rectal stimulants create rhythmic contractions in your body; however, instead of your intestines, these stimulants cause contractions in your rectum, allowing your body to move stool along. Such stimulants include Bisacodyl, Dulcolax and Pedia-Lax. Common side effects include irritation of the rectal area, stomach aches and cramping.
Though most of these side effects are extremely common, you should always monitor your body while taking over-the-counter constipation medications. If you experience prolonged side effects or constipation, call your doctor as these side effects and conditions can lead to worsening conditions and side effects.