Stimulant laxatives work by making the muscles in the bowel try to push out any hardened stool that may be there. There are synthetic stimulant laxatives and “natural” stimulant laxatives, but both work the same way. These laxatives should be treated very carefully as they can be habit forming – your bowels may grow used to them and require higher and higher doses to work, meaning you won’t be able to pass a bowel movement without them. They are also commonly abused by people with disordered eating habits due to the belief that the shedding of water and waste from the body will result in weight loss. Laxatives do not cause true weight loss as they have no effect on the body’s metabolism or the amount of calories ingested.
Non-stimulant laxatives are considered safer when used correctly. They include laxatives that draw water to the bowels, adding fiber to the bowels, or adding lubricant to the intestines to help stool pass through.
While laxatives can be an effective medicine when used correctly for the treatment of constipation, they should not be used regularly or relied on. Adding fiber to your diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and exercising regularly are all proven to help with regular, healthy bowel movements.