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With a wide range of laxatives available it's important to understand how different products work, so you can recommend the most appropriate option for each customer.
Initially, customers should try to make lifestyle changes such as eating more fibre, improving their toilet routine (such as going at a regular time), and maintaining adequate fluid intake, as well as regular exercise.1 If these measures haven't helped, a laxative might be the next step:
Bulk-forming laxatives, such as ispaghula husk, which increase the bulk of the stool and stimulate bowel movement peristalsis, could be tried first. These may take a few days to work.2 Note: Bulk-forming laxatives shouldn't be used with those taking opioids3,41
If these measures are not successful, osmotic laxatives (which draw water from the colon into the stool) or stool softeners (which decrease stool surface tension to allow liquid penetration into the stool to both soften it and stimulate peristalsis) can help ease symptoms.2,4 They can take 1-3 days to have effect.2,5
If customers are still straining to poo, stimulant laxatives (which act to stimulate the nerves in the gut) can act within 6-12 hours,3
so if they are taken at night, customers should expect a bowel movement in the morning.