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Are Stool Softeners Safe?

Are Stool Softeners Safe?

Constipation is a common problem, stool softeners are used, when the condition becomes severe. Hence, people want to know, if the use of stool softeners is indeed safe and how long should one take them.
Bhakti Satalkar
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2018
Stool softeners are used to loosen the stool in case of constipation. They are also known as emollient laxatives. Additional water and fats are incorporated in the stool, which makes it easier for it to be eliminated from the system. Stool softeners work in the small and large intestine and may take anywhere between 12 to 72 hours to show effect. There are two main types of stool softeners, namely natural stool softeners and the medicinal stool softeners.
In the medicinal stool softeners, the main ingredient is docusate. It is important to note that these stool softeners do not induce or increase bowel movements. They are often used to prevent constipation as opposed to treat it. Therefore, they are often recommended to people, who are not supposed to strain while defecating. This brings us to the question, is it safe to use stool softeners. Well, stool softeners are safe, when they are taken in limited quantities and for a short duration only.
Can Stool Softeners be Taken Daily?
It is seen that stool softeners are used in the long term treatment of constipation. The dose of the softeners given to the patient depends on his condition. In some cases, the dosage may have to be increased as well. However, it does not mean, that they should be consumed everyday. Once the problem is solved, the patient should go off the stool softeners. Absorption of mineral oil and some medications from the intestine is observed, when one consumes emollient laxatives. Absorption of mineral oil is not healthy for the body, as it can accumulate in the lymph nodes and liver, where it can give rise to inflammation. It is important that a stool softener is also not consumed with mineral oil or also with other prescription medications.
Are Stool Softeners Safe to Take During Pregnancy?
Taking stool softeners during pregnancy is considered to be safe. The active ingredients in the stool softeners are not absorbed by the body, unless it is taken in large dosages. Therefore, it does not have an adverse effect on the growing baby. However, it is important that stool softeners be taken after consulting your health care professional. Same is the case with taking any other kind of laxatives. The health care professional will take your health into consideration, before recommending a stool softener or any other laxative to you.
Lifestyle Changes to Treat Constipation
Before you reach for stool softeners as a home remedy for treating constipation, there are some lifestyle changes, which you may want to incorporate in your lifestyle, so that you do not suffer from the condition. It is often seen that people who suffer from constipation do not consume sufficient quantities of water. Drinking plenty of fluids proves helpful in treating the condition. Fruit juices can also be included in the diet. Juices like prune juices are very effective in treating constipation.
If your diet is rich in junk food, this is something which you should change. A diet which is rich in junk food often leads to constipation. On the contrary, your diet should be rich in high fiber foods. The diet for treating constipation should be rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Fiber rich fruits should be a part of the diet as well. If you think you are constipated, consuming fruits like papaya, watermelon, banana, etc. can prove to be useful. Green leafy vegetables also prove to be a good remedy for constipation.
Now comes the next 'important' change that will have to be done to your lifestyle. Along with the food habits, you will have to incorporate some form of physical activity in your daily routine. It can be walking exercise, swimming, yoga, aerobics or any other. However, make sure you consume sufficient quantities of water after you workout.
Now, if someone asks you, 'are stool softeners safe?', you can safely say, 'they are'. Although stool softeners are safe, it is recommended that they are taken under medical supervision only. At the same time, it is also important that your health care professional is aware of the medicines you are on, so as to avoid any health complications.