Constipation can be an annoying and painful problem. Not being able to use the restroom will take its toll on the body and can even ruin your entire day. Many laxative products can be purchased over-the-counter and will help you relieve your constipation. However, for a person that does not have the time to research every single one of them, the real question becomes which ones actually work?
Generally, laxatives are available in different forms such as pills, liquids, and suppositories. Today, we’re going to focus on the latter: suppository laxatives. By taking a closer look, we hope to answer the question of whether or not they actually work and whether or not they’re something you should consider.
What Is a Suppository?
The first thing to know about suppositories, or rectal laxatives, is that they are a capsule that is inserted into the rectum. They begin to take effect and produce a bowel movement within 15 minutes to one hour, depending on the type of suppository used. It’s important to understand the preparation necessary when using these. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” and “how long?” You need to block off some time and stay close to the restroom. Do not insert a suppository and then head out the door for a two hour trip to the grocery store. 
Types of Suppositories
There are many different types of suppository laxatives, and all of them work in different ways. Here is quick run down of a few different types and how they work.
- Carbon Dioxide-releasing: This type of suppository improves bowel movement by creating a gas inside the intestine, which causes the walls to contract and release the bowel movement.
- Hyperosmotic: A suppository that works by drawing water from the surrounding tissues into the intestine, which then softens the stool.
- Lubricant: It coats the stool inside the intestine with a waterproof seal that does not allow moisture to escape. As a result, the stool stays soft and is easier to release.
- Stimulants: These laxatives cause the intestine wall to contract and move the stool out of the body.
- Stool softeners: They work to soften the stool by having it mix with liquids in the intestine in order to create an easier-to-release stool.
Suppository Side Effects
The side effects commonly associated with suppository laxatives are dizziness and weakness, thirst, indigestion, stomach pains or cramps, diarrhea, nausea or a skin rash. Some of the more serious and potentially dangerous side effects include urinating less than usual, drowsiness or confusion, swelling and weight gain, rectal bleeding, severe stomach pain, vomiting, and low potassium. If you happen to experience any of those side effects you should call a doctor immediately. 
Suppository laxatives can be quite strong and fast acting, but suppositories have a harsh effect on the stomach and can even lead to laxative dependency and irregular bowel movements if taken too often or for too long. There have been promising chemical trials for newer types of suppositories using marine lipids, but they are still a long way from appearing on store shelves. 
Should You Use a Suppository Laxative?
There’s no question that using a suppository will produce a bowel movement, but is a suppository the best laxative for your needs? Many people would not describe them as “gentle” in the slightest. The application procedure (pushing them into your rectum) is uncomfortable for many, as is the cramping that often follows. Regularly cleansing your colon with a gentle, oxygen-based colon cleanser might just help to eliminate your need for the harsh suppository experience.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM
- Mayo Clinic. Laxative (Rectal Route). (last accessed 2013-06-02).
- Kaiser Permanente. Fleet Glycerin (Adult) Rectal Suppository. (last accessed 2013-06-02).
- Ormarsson OT, Geirsson T, Bjornsson ES, Jonsson T, Moller P, Loftsson T, Stefansson E. Clinical trial: marine lipid suppositories as laxatives. Mar Drugs. 2012 Sep;10(9):2047-54. doi: 10.3390/md10092047. Epub 2012 Sep 20.