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Sorbitol

Generic Name: sorbitol (SOR bi tal)
Brand Name: Arlex

Medically reviewed on December 4, 2017

What is sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a laxative. It is used to treat constipation.

Sorbitol may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

A laxative may be habit forming and should be used only until your bowel habits return to normal. Never share sorbitol with another person, especially someone with a history of eating disorder. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist before taking this medication if you have an allergy, if your bowel habits have changed suddenly in the past 2 weeks, or if you have nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain that has not been checked by a doctor.

Avoid taking other laxatives or stool softeners unless your doctor tells you to.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use sorbitol if you are allergic to it.

A laxative may be habit forming and should be used only until your bowel habits return to normal. Never share sorbitol with another person, especially someone with a history of eating disorder. Keep the medication in a place where others cannot get to it.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to take sorbitol if you have:

  • any allergy;

  • nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain that has not been checked by a doctor;

  • if your bowel habits have changed suddenly in the past 2 weeks.

It is not known whether sorbitol will harm an unborn baby. Do not use this medication without medical advice if you are pregnant.

It is not known whether sorbitol passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Older adults may be more sensitive to the effects of this medicine.

Do not give this medicine to a child without medical advice.

How should I take sorbitol?

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Sorbitol is usually taken only for a short time until your symptoms clear up.

Do not use this medication for longer than 1 week without the advice of your doctor.

Store at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

Overdose symptoms may include diarrhea and stomach cramps.

What should I avoid while taking sorbitol?

Avoid taking other laxatives or stool softeners unless your doctor tells you to.

Sorbitol side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using sorbitol and call your doctor at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • severe stomach cramps;

  • vomiting;

  • severe diarrhea;

  • rectal bleeding;

  • black, bloody, or tarry stools;

  • weakness, dizziness; or

  • frequent urge to have a bowel movement.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • gas, mild nausea or stomach cramps; or

  • rectal irritation.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

Sorbitol dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Constipation:

Oral: 30 to 150 mL (70% solution) once.

Rectal: 120 mL (25% to 30% solution) as a rectal enema once.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Constipation:

2 to 11 years:
Oral: 2 mL/kg (70% solution) once.
Rectal: 30 to 60 mL (25% to 30% solution) as a rectal enema once.

Greater than or equal to 12 years:
Oral: 30 to 150 mL (70% solution) once.
Rectal: 120 mL (25% to 30% solution) as a rectal enema once.

What other drugs will affect sorbitol?

Tell your doctor about all other medicines you use, especially other laxatives, stool softeners, or sodium polystyrene sulfonate.

This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with sorbitol. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

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

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