Bowel obstruction is a serious medical emergency that can result from many different underlying causes. One of the most common bowel obstructions is ileus, which occurs when the muscles in the intestinal wall contract and stop food from passing through. This article will provide an overview about what laxatives are, and why they’re contraindicated in patients with bowel obstruction.
What Are Laxatives?
Laxatives are substances that cause bowel movements. They work by stimulating or increasing contractions of the bowels, and can be either stimulant-type laxatives (to get things moving) or stool softeners (to make it easier for feces to pass).
There are many different types of laxatives, but one thing they all have in common is their ability to stimulate peristalsis: This term refers to the waves of contractions that move along a segment of your intestines as you digest food. The contraction starts at an area called the “contractile cardia” which lies near where food enters into your stomach from your esophagus—the tube connecting your mouth with lower digestive tract.
As these contract ions move along your intestines, they push food and fecal matter out of the way.
There are two types of laxatives that work very differently: stimulant-type laxatives (which cause you to have a bowel movement) or stool softeners (to make it easier for feces to pass). Stimulant-type laxatives stimulate peristalsis; these include senna leaf extract, bisacodyl tablets/suppositories, cascara sagrada bark powder mix with water), castor oil packs, and pumpkin seeds.
Laxative medications such as phenolphthalein sodium/magnesium hydroxide can also help promote bowel movements by causing irritation in the large intestine which results in an increase in muscle contractions.
It’s not uncommon to use a combination of laxatives for the best results, but they should never be used in conjunction with one another because it can lead to excessive diarrhea or constipation.
Stool softeners absorb water from fecal matter and hold onto it so that when you have a bowel movement, your stool is more solid. Stool softeners are often recommended by doctors/nurses as their first choice treatment for an individual who has chronic constipation- indications mainly include people over 50 years old, pregnant women (to prevent miscarriage) and individuals who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome which includes abdominal cramps, bloating, gas etc.).
Examples of stool softener medications may include docusate sodium, docusate calcium and docusate potassium.
Laxatives are used to eliminate unwanted material from the body- for example, stool in cases of constipation or bile if you have a gallbladder disorder.
Examples of laxative medications may include Bisacodyl (commonly known as Dulcolax), Senna leafs/extracts (e.g., Senokot) and Phenolphthalein powder which is an artificial sweetener that causes diarrhea when mixed with water due to its effect on alkaline levels in the gut).
Laxatives are often used after surgery to prevent clogged intestines by removing all fecal matter before it has time to become hard and difficult to pass. They may also be used to relieve constipation caused by other factors such as a low fiber diet, lack of exercise or problems with the intestinal muscles.
Why Are Laxatives Contraindicated In Bowel Obstruction?
Laxatives are contraindicated in bowel obstruction because they act on nerve endings within the intestine and colon that control digestion and excretion so that any food consumed passes through quickly without being properly digested (i.e., diarrhea).
If there is no peristaltic activity due to an obstruction then laxative use will make it more difficult for the blockage to clear itself naturally from your system so you need surgery instead.
Do not use any osmotic, stimulant or any other laxatives if you have Bowel Obstruction!