what's the difference between laxatives, stool softeners etc?

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Regular Member

Date Joined May 2009
Total Posts : 65
   Posted 8/8/2009 12:08 PM (GMT -7)   
I know it's probably a really basic question but I hope you don't mind me asking anyway - I'm being careful what I eat because I have inflammation/stricture and don't want another stay in hospital for obstruction before I start my course of treatment (poss Remicade but doing some more tests). My system though feels a bit sluggish - BMs are happening, formed not hard, no pain but struggling to totally empty and I feel a bit 'full' (sorry can't explain better)
Anyway I tried to find a previous post that explains the difference between laxatives, stool softeners, fibre supplements etc and which to take when. I have always been mostly C and the first cigarette of the day used to help before I quit!! I wouldn't be too bothered now except the doc says that until inflammation goes down I may well get another blockage. Also having sbft on thursday and the letter says I will be constipated because of the barium for a few days so I might need to take a laxative.
I just want to keep things moving as best I can. Any explanations welcome idea
Diagnosed aged 31 in 1996 - emergency surgery (right hemicolectomy). Thought I'd only get 'it' once and have lived in relatively blissful ignorance, apart from a couple of hospital stays for obstructions (scar tissue), until March 09....major surgery, 2 resections, fistula and now only 195cm small bowel left. Not on any meds at present except B12 injections but know there will be some. Just getting used to my 'new' body and it's limitations........ July 09 hospital stay for obstruction & tests show disease back: now on Asacol and waiting to see which treatment I'm put on
Penny x

Becoming undone
Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2007
Total Posts : 927
   Posted 8/8/2009 1:12 PM (GMT -7)   
It's a common question...people (unless medical professionals or even chemists/scientists) don't really think about the difference in the 3...okay the summary...

Stool Softener: It acts to adsorb water "into the stool" in the large intestine.
Fiber: The fiber itself adsorbs the water, throughout the digestive system, not just the large intestine
Stimulant: Your standard e-lax. These stimulate the muscles of the colon to move your food through.

The Ducolax website has some good info about the 3...

I hope this helps...
"The earth laughs in flowers"

Lady G
Regular Member

Date Joined Sep 2006
Total Posts : 321
   Posted 8/8/2009 1:58 PM (GMT -7)   
Stool softeners also don't MAKE you go, they just make it softer and easier when you DO go. Unlike Laxatives which MAKE you go. Thats one of the differences on those as well.

Regular Member

Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 63
   Posted 8/8/2009 7:14 PM (GMT -7)   


Stool Softeners are more gentle on your stomach than laxatives.

Laxatives work faster than stool softeners. A laxative can take 6-8 hours to work. As a stool softener could take 12 to 24 hours to work.

34 yr old Male from NYC, DX with Crohn's in oct of 1987
Resection in 1990
Switching to Remicade, Aug 6th. 2009
Entocort 3mg 3 pills each morning.
Currently on Humira pen shots, 40mg weekly. Cipro 2x a day.
Anemic again, Start Iron infusions August 31.

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