nutrition communication services Home : About Robyn : Resume : Client List : My Blog : Contact

Considering a Laxative for Constipation?

Some constipation is caused by medications and may require a laxative to get relief


Adults over the age of 65 make up over 40% of the 4 million Americans who report having frequent constipation. It is the most common gastrointestinal complaint in the U.S., accounting for 2.5 million visits to the doctor each year.     

I've written about the foods that can help relieve constipation, but sometimes a change in diet is not enough. Laxatives are often needed to get relief. In fact, around $725 million a year is spent on the different types of laxatives available. 

A common cause of constipation in older adults is taking multiple medications  to treat multiple medical conditions.  Since many medications can interfere with bowel function, the more you take, the worse the problem can become. Even some non-prescription drugs and dietary supplements can cause constipation. 

Check the lists below to see if you or a family member are at risk for constipation due to these medications. 

Prescription drugs that can cause constipation:

  • Narcotics containing opioids
  • Calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure and heart conditions
  • Diuretics
  • Tranquilizers
  • Antiparkinsonism drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antispasmodic drugs

Non-prescription drugs that can cause constipation:

  • Antacids containing aluminum or calcium
  • Iron supplements
  • Antihistamines containing diphenhydramine
  • NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen
  • Antidiarrheal 

Since there may not be a substitute for many of these medications, diet and lifestyle approaches should be the considered first to treat the constipation.  If they are not successful, discuss with your physician what type of laxative might be appropriate. 

What About Stool Softeners?

After undergoing surgery many doctors prescribe a stool softener to avoid the possibility of straining when passing a bowel movement. They are also commonly prescribed for people with hemorrhoids, heart conditions, and to women after childbirth. Stool softeners, such as Colace, work by moistening the stool and are only recommended for short-term use.  

Learn more about How to Cure Constipation

Take a chance in the Colace Comfort Sweepstakes  , good until June 2, 2012