Types of Stool Softeners

Types of Stool Softeners
Types of Stool Softeners (Image: loosepunctuation/Flickr.com)

Constipation is a serious problem. Surgery, inactivity and improper diet make the intestines work slower. The longer stool is in the body, the harder and dryer it will become, making it difficult to pass. Stool softeners make stool softer, so going to the bathroom is easier.


Stool softeners are medications given to patients for relief of constipation. Usually taken for a short duration, they may also be taken regularly for chronic constipation. You can get stool softeners with or without a stimulant laxative ingredient, although the laxative ingredient is less predictable according to Fruit Eze.

Docusate Sodium

Ducusate sodium is a stool softener that works by causing the stool to absorb more water while it is in the intestines. It contains the medication docusate combined with sodium, or salt. Usually used after medical procedures that call for limited straining when having a bowel movement, it is also used after a procedure or incident where the intestines may move slower, such as trauma or surgery. Ducusate sodium is not a stimulant laxative so it has fewer side effects, such as cramping and urgency.

Docusate Calcium

Docusate calcium, is also a stool softener that causes water to be drawn into the stool so that it can pass with ease. Docusate calcium is also for persons who for any reason, are not supposed to strain when having a bowel movement. The active ingredients are docusate and calcium in a capsule form, however it may also be prescribed in the form of a rectal suppository. Docusate calcium is sold under the names Colace, Correctol and Col-Rite to name a few. Results are usually seen in 24 to 48 hours.

Poloxamer 188

Poloxamer 188 softens the stool by causing it to absorb and retain water, making it easier to pass without straining. Poloxamer 188 takes three to five days for the full effect to be felt so is not meant for quick relief of constipation. This medication is not habit forming and is available without a prescription. Very few side effects have been reported form it use. Poloxamer 188 comes in a capsule, or a liquid form and should be taken with plenty of water we are told by, MDAdvice.


Lactulose is a synthetic sugar-based stool softener. When it passes through the colon and is broken down, it causes water to be drawn into the stool. Water makes the stool softer and more comfortable to pass. Lactulose is only available by prescription and may be prescribed for other uses. It comes in a liquid form to be taken four times a day. Side effects can be gas, upset stomach and diarrhea.

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