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Laxatives

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on March 11, 2021.

What are Laxatives?

Laxatives are medicines that help resolve constipation or empty the bowel of fecal matter before procedures or surgery involving the lower bowel. There are several different types available (see differences below) and each type works in a particular way. Some soften or loosen up the stool, while others increase how frequently the large colon contracts which helps move the stool along the bowel.

Laxatives may also be called cathartics or purgatives.

What are laxatives used for?

Laxatives are used to treat constipation if lifestyle changes have failed to resolve the constipation or if the person has a medical condition (such as angina) that may be exacerbated by straining.

Before taking a laxative it is important to be sure the person is actually constipated and that the constipation is not due to an underlying, undiagnosed condition. People's bowel habits vary and it does not mean that somebody is constipated if they do not pass a bowel motion every day. Constipation is usually defined as "The passage of hard stools less frequently than the person's normal bowel pattern". Laxatives should generally not be used long-term unless under medical supervision because they can cause electrolyte disturbances (such as low potassium levels), dehydration, and contribute to a sluggish bowel.

Before using a laxative, lifestyle changes, such as drinking more fluid, exercising, and increasing the amount of vegetables and fiber in the diet should be tried first.

Types of laxatives include:

  • Bulk-forming laxatives (such as fibers or psyllium). These absorb water in the bowel and swell to bulk out the stool making it softer and easier to pass
  • Emollient stool softeners (such as docusate). These moisten and lubricate the stool making it easier to pass
  • Osmotic laxatives (such as lactulose) draw fluid into the bowel and soften stools
  • Stimulant laxatives (such as senna or bisacodyl) promote contraction of the intestines, promoting the movement of stools through the bowel.

Bowel cleansing preparations

Bowel cleansing preparations are not treatments for constipation. They are used before bowel surgery, colonoscopy, or radiological examinations to ensure that the bowel is free of solid contents.

They should be used with caution in people with fluid and electrolyte disturbances, such as dehydration and low potassium levels. These should be corrected before administration.

Examples of bowel cleansing preparations include:

  • polyethylene glycol-3350 with or without electrolytes 
  • sodium biphosphate/sodium phosphate
  • magnesium sulfate/potassium sulfate/sodium sulfate.

 

List of Laxatives:

View by  Brand | Generic
Drug Name Avg. Rating Reviews
Suprep Bowel Prep Kit (Pro)
Generic name: magnesium sulfate / potassium sulfate / sodium sulfate
7.1
1,599 reviews
Dulcolax (Pro)
Generic name: bisacodyl
5.2
1,016 reviews
MoviPrep (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
6.8
373 reviews
Plenvu (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
4.6
278 reviews
MiraLAX (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350
7.3
220 reviews
Phillips' Milk of Magnesia
Generic name: magnesium hydroxide
8.5
188 reviews
Clenpiq (Pro)
Generic name: citric acid / magnesium oxide / sodium picosulfate
6.0
188 reviews
Prepopik (Pro)
Generic name: citric acid / magnesium oxide / sodium picosulfate
6.4
156 reviews
Senokot
Generic name: senna
5.7
130 reviews
Fleet Enema
Generic name: sodium biphosphate / sodium phosphate
8.6
87 reviews
GoLYTELY (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
6.4
66 reviews
Metamucil
Generic name: psyllium
6.7
56 reviews
GaviLyte-G (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
7.1
49 reviews
Milk of Magnesia
Generic name: magnesium hydroxide
8.2
42 reviews
Correctol
Generic name: bisacodyl
5.6
39 reviews
NuLYTELY (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
4.6
13 reviews
ClearLax (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350
8.4
12 reviews
Colace
Generic name: docusate
5.6
11 reviews
PEG-3350 with Electolytes
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
9.7
10 reviews
GaviLyte-N (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
6.1
10 reviews
GaviLyte-C (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
5.6
9 reviews
Konsyl
Generic name: psyllium
8.8
7 reviews
Senokot S
Generic name: docusate / senna
9.8
6 reviews
OsmoPrep (Pro)
Generic name: sodium biphosphate / sodium phosphate
6.8
6 reviews
Citrate of Magnesia
Generic name: magnesium citrate
10
6 reviews
HalfLytely and Bisacodyl (Pro)
Generic name: bisacodyl / polyethylene glycol 3350 / potassium chloride / sodium bicarbonate / sodium chloride
4.2
5 reviews
Generlac (Pro)
Generic name: lactulose
9.6
5 reviews
Fleet Glycerin Suppositories Adult
Generic name: glycerin
6.8
5 reviews
TriLyte (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
4.0
4 reviews
Colyte (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
6.8
4 reviews
PEG3350
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350
6.0
3 reviews
GaviLAX (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350
1.0
3 reviews
Fleet Phospho Soda
Generic name: sodium biphosphate / sodium phosphate
8.7
3 reviews
Fleet Bisacodyl
Generic name: bisacodyl
7.2
3 reviews
Enulose (Pro)
Generic name: lactulose
8.9
3 reviews
Duphalac
Generic name: lactulose
3.0
3 reviews
Senna Plus
Generic name: docusate / senna
8.7
2 reviews
Senexon
Generic name: senna
3.5
2 reviews
Fletchers Castoria
Generic name: senna
5.5
2 reviews
Ex-Lax
Generic name: senna
10
2 reviews
Constulose (Pro)
Generic name: lactulose
5.5
2 reviews
Senna S
Generic name: docusate / senna
4.5
1 review
Purelax
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350
9.5
1 review
Peri-Colace
Generic name: docusate / senna
10
1 review
Pedia-Lax Liquid Glycerin Suppositories
Generic name: glycerin
10
1 review
GlycoLax
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350
6.5
1 review
FiberCon
Generic name: polycarbophil
9.0
1 review
Epsom Salt
Generic name: magnesium sulfate
10
1 review
Enemeez Mini
Generic name: docusate
9.0
1 review
Dulcolax Stool Softener
Generic name: docusate
5.0
1 review
Dulcolax Milk of Magnesia
Generic name: magnesium hydroxide
10
1 review
Doc-Q-Lax
Generic name: docusate / senna
8.0
1 review
Disposable Enema
Generic name: sodium biphosphate / sodium phosphate
10
1 review
Citrucel (Pro)
Generic name: methylcellulose
9.0
1 review
X-Prep
Generic name: senna
No reviews
Visicol (Pro)
Generic name: sodium biphosphate / sodium phosphate
No reviews
Uni-Cenna
Generic name: senna
No reviews
Tricitrasol
Generic name: sodium citrate
No reviews
Swiss Kriss
Generic name: senna
No reviews
Sutab (Pro)
Generic name: magnesium sulfate / potassium chloride / sodium sulfate
No reviews
Surfak
Generic name: docusate
No reviews
SunMark ClearLax
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350
No reviews
Suclear (Pro)
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
No reviews
SenoSol-X
Generic name: senna
No reviews
SenoSol-SS
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
SenoSol
Generic name: senna
No reviews
Sennalax-S
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
Senna-Time S
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
Senexon-S
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
Sani-Supp
Generic name: glycerin
No reviews
Reguloid
Generic name: psyllium
No reviews
Pizensy (Pro)
Generic name: lactitol
No reviews
Pedia-Lax Chewable Tablets
Generic name: magnesium hydroxide
No reviews
Natural Fiber Therapy
Generic name: psyllium
No reviews
Medi-Laxx
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
Laxmar
Generic name: psyllium
No reviews
Laxacin
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
Kristalose (Pro)
Generic name: lactulose
3.0
No reviews
Konsyl Daily Fiber Therapy
Generic name: polycarbophil
No reviews
Kondremul
Generic name: mineral oil
No reviews
Innerclean
Generic name: senna
No reviews
Hydrocil
Generic name: psyllium
No reviews
Gialax
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350
No reviews
Fleet Glycerin Suppositories Pediatric
Generic name: glycerin
No reviews
Fibertab
Generic name: polycarbophil
No reviews
Fiber Laxative
Generic name: polycarbophil
No reviews
Fiber Lax
Generic name: polycarbophil
No reviews
Ex-Lax Milk of Magnesia
Generic name: magnesium hydroxide
No reviews
Ex-Lax Chocolated
Generic name: senna
No reviews
Equalactin
Generic name: polycarbophil
No reviews
Dr Caldwell Laxative
Generic name: senna
No reviews
Dok Plus
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
DOK
Generic name: docusate
No reviews
Docuzen
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
Docuprene
Generic name: docusate
No reviews
Doc-Q-Lace (Pro)
Generic name: docusate
6.0
No reviews
Diocto
Generic name: docusate
No reviews
Correctol Herbal Tea Laxative
Generic name: senna
No reviews
ColPrep Kit (Pro)
Generic name: magnesium sulfate / potassium sulfate / sodium sulfate
No reviews
Colace Micro-Enema
Generic name: docusate
No reviews
Colace 2-in-1
Generic name: docusate / senna
No reviews
Clenz-Lyte
Generic name: polyethylene glycol 3350 with electrolytes
No reviews
Citroma
Generic name: magnesium citrate
No reviews
Black Draught
Generic name: senna
7.0
No reviews
Bisa-Lax
Generic name: bisacodyl
No reviews
For ratings, users were asked how effective they found the medicine while considering positive/adverse effects and ease of use (1 = not effective, 10 = most effective).

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.