A laxative is a substance that promotes bowel movements and helps alleviate constipation by increasing the frequency or ease of passing stools. These substances work by either stimulating the intestines’ muscles or drawing water into the colon to soften the stool. But did you know there are four types of laxatives for different digestive concerns? This article will dive into each category and how they work wonders for your digestive system.

(1) Osmotic Laxatives

Say hello to a one of the most common types of laxatives that draw water into the colon, rev up bowel movements, and make the passage of stool through the colon a breeze. Hydration and flow – that’s the game!

Examples: magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), polyethylene glycol or glycerin

(2) Bulk-Forming Laxatives

Meet the fiber-packed pals! Bulk-forming laxatives contain fiber that brings water into the colon, softens stool, and increases its bulk. A gentle and natural approach to keep things moving smoothly.

Examples: psyllium or methylcellulose

(3) Emollient Laxatives

This type of laxative is actually a stool softener. It works its magic by reducing surface tension and allowing intestinal fluids to soften the stool. Easier passage, less resistance!

Examples: docusate sodium or docusate calcium

(4) Stimulant Laxatives

Meet the movers and shakers of the laxative world! Stimulant laxatives kick things into gear by stimulating nerves and muscles in the intestine. Increased muscle contractions help the stool speed through the colon. Fast and efficient!

Examples: Bisacodyl or sennosides

Understanding laxatives empowers you to make informed choices for a happy and healthy gut. Remember, always consult with your healthcare provider like a naturopathic doctor for personalized advice. Your digestive system will thank you!


Book an appointment here with Dr. Liz Dalglish, ND, who focuses part of her practice in digestive health including IBS, chronic constipation and more!