For immediate relief from constipation, a laxative will likely prove to be most successful. Sometimes an over the counter laxative may prove sufficient, but often your local GP will be able to prescribe a more effective variety.
Laxatives come in a number of forms and provide constipation relief in different ways. The main types of laxative for the relief of constipation are as follows:
Bulk-forming laxatives - these are essentially fibre supplements that increase the bulk of your faeces to allow a greater absorption of fluids, and therefore make stools easier to pass. Bulk-forming laxatives usually provide relief within 24 hours but sometimes can take several days to be fully effective.
Osmotic laxatives - these provide relief by retaining more fluid in the bowel so once again stools can be passed more easily. Such laxatives can take two or three days to have the desired effect.
Stimulant laxatives - these stimulate the nerves and muscles in the bowels to encourage them to push through your stools. Such laxatives typically provide relief in under twelve hours.
Stool softeners - these work on the surface of a hard stool, breaking it down, and allowing for the greater absorption of water. Stool softeners will take anything from twelve hours to three days to provide relief form constipation.
However, although laxatives will usually provide the quickest relief from constipation, they are not the best method of treatment. In most cases, constipation is most effectively treated by making changes to your diet and lifestyle. This helps address the cause of your bowel problem rather than simply providing a temporary cure.
You can dramatically lower you chances of becoming constipated by eating enough fibre and by drinking enough fluids. These two steps help maintain regular, smooth stools and therefore prevent constipation from occurring.
A lack of exercise can also contribute to the development of constipation. Try to be as mobile as you can. Half an hour of light exercise, such as a brisk walk, should be enough to help keep your digestive system moving.
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