How Long Does It Take For Laxatives To Work?

How Long Does It Take For Laxatives To Work

Laxatives can be a lifesaver for many people. They are often taken to relieve constipation, or to help with weight loss efforts. In this post we will discuss the different types of laxatives and how long they take to work, so you know which one is best for your situation.

First, we will discuss the different types of laxatives.

Emollient Laxatives

Emollient laxatives are typically used to relieve constipation and allow for easier bowel movements. They work by coating your intestines with a layer that keeps things moving through easily.

These generally take about 12 hours before they start working fully, but may need some time to reach peak effectiveness.

The main ingredients for emollient laxatives are docusate sodium and mineral oil.

Docusate sodium is a stool softener that causes the intestines to produce more liquid, which helps soften stools so they can be passed easily out of the body.

Mineral oil works by coating your intestines with a layer that keeps things moving through easily.

How long do Emollient laxatives take to work?

Generally, emollient laxatives also known as stool softeners take about 12 hours to work. Although it can can take up to 72 hours to get desired results.

Bulk-Forming Laxatives

Bulk-forming laxatives can also be used as an alternative treatment for constipation because it encourages peristalsis in your intestines – making them move more regularly and preventing stoppages from happening so often.

This type normally takes around 24-72 hours to get started properly.

The main ingredients for bulk-forming laxatives are psyllium husk, sterculia and methylcellulose.

Lactulose is an example of a bulk-forming laxative that works to make your intestines produce more liquid, so they can soften and empty out the stool.

Some people take lactulose at bedtime or first thing in the morning if they have trouble with constipation during their sleep cycles.

However, this drug is only available on prescription – which means it’s unlikely for most users to be taking them without asking advice from their doctor first!

How long do Bulk-forming laxatives take to work?

It can take up to 48 hours for laxatives to work properly. In the meantime, focus on drinking plenty of water and eating high-fiber foods like fresh fruit, vegetables or whole grains. A good guideline is about 12 ounces (355 ml) per day which should help soften stools so they are easier to pass through your intestines.

Hyperosmotic Laxatives

Hyperosmotic laxatives are usually the main course of treatment for constipation. These work by drawing water into your colon, making it easier to pass stool when necessary – which will help bring on natural peristalsis in the intestines and reduce any chances of things getting caught up too much.

These take around 48 hours before they start working properly.

The ingredients that make up hyperosmotic laxatives are magnesium oxide, lactulose and sorbitol.

Sorbitol is probably the most well-known laxative of this type and it’s also one that you can buy over the counter at a pharmacy.

Magnesium oxide, on the other hand, needs to be prescribed by your doctor – which means you need to have an ongoing problem with constipation before they will even consider prescribing something like this!

How long do Hyperosmotic laxatives take to work?

It can take anything from 14 hours to 72 hours for these types of laxatives to work fully, depending on a type you’re using.

Stimulant Laxatives

Stimulant laxatives work by artificially stimulating the muscles in your intestines and bowels, which can help them to contract more violently and move stool through your system faster. These are usually prescribed for short-term use only as after a while they may cause you to become dependent on these medications.

Ingredients that make up stimulant laxatives can vary from one type of medication to another, but common ingredients include senna leaf extract, sodium picosulphate bisacodyl (Ducolax).

Another thing worth mentioning is that if you take these in the morning, you will usually see results by late afternoon.

How long do Stimulant Laxatives take to work?

Stimulant Laxatives take to work from 6 to 12 hours after taking.

How Long Do Laxatives Take to Work?

In general, laxatives do not work within a day or two. They usually take around three days to provide relief for constipation, however this can vary depending on the individual’s circumstances.

The fastest results can be achieved with stimulant laxatives which work to stimulate the bowel muscles. These type of laxative can be taken orally and act quickly, usually within a day or two.

Other types of laxatives take time to have an effect because they are bulk-forming, emollient, lubricants or hyperosmotic in nature. For these types it will typically take at least three days for relief from constipation if they’re going to help at all.

People who suffer from chronic constipation may have other factors at play such as being dehydrated, having low levels of stomach acidity (which causes food to move through the digestive system too slowly), eating diets high in fiber but not enough water to go with them; these are just a few examples.

Taking laxatives While Breastfeeding

Many laxatives can be used while breastfeeding. After a short time, most of the active ingredients are removed from your breastmilk and it becomes safe to use them again.

However, if you’re going back on diet-based treatments for constipation (such as high-fibre diets) or any other medication that’s not recommended in pregnancy then it might be best to wait until after weaning before using these ones too.

Recommendations When Taking Laxatives

It’s always best to take the medication as directed and not use more than you need. If it becomes necessary then try using a lower dose instead, or altering the time of day that they are taken so that your body does not get used to them too quickly.

If you do suffer from constipation often then make sure you’re eating plenty of fibre-rich foods alongside drinking lots of water and getting enough exercise every day. You can also speak with your doctor about any other treatments for chronic constipation such as dietary modifications or suppositories which may help lessen how long it takes before symptoms start improving.

Risks of Taking Laxatives

The side effects of taking laxatives can vary depending on the type you’re using, but some symptoms to be aware of include:

– Dizziness;

– Headaches;

– Nausea and vomiting.

If your doctor recommends or prescribes a laxative then they are there for medicinal purposes only. Taking too many could cause detrimental health problems such as vitamin depletion, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances so it’s always better to speak with them first before self-medicating if possible.

Some medications cannot be taken with laxatives, so it’s always best to check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any type of medicine.

Some people become dependent on laxatives in order to keep their constipation at bay and this is where the risks start piling up even more. The use of stimulant laxative can cause a dependency as they stimulate the bowel muscles such that they’ve been trained not function correctly without them. Several weeks off these types has led many sufferers back into chronic constipation which was originally being treated by using them.

There are also some cases where people have accidentally taken too much of an osmotic laxative and experienced dehydration because it pulls fluids from within cells (which is bad).


Laxatives are a useful tool in the arsenal of dealing with constipation, but they cannot be relied upon to take care of it entirely.

In general, laxatives take from 6 hours to a day or three to work and the stimulant laxatives being the fastest among all of them.

The most common way for a person to take a laxative is by mouth with the typical dosage being anywhere from one teaspoonful (called a dose) up to four doses at once, depending on the severity and type of constipation that needs treatment.

If you’re taking addictive or dependency causing types (such as stimulant laxatives) then make sure that there is supervision by a doctor if even after months off these medicines your bowels remain dysfunctional and inconsistent.


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