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What’s the Best Instant Laxative?

Published on , Last Updated on June 14, 2013

The outcome of an instant laxative

Constipation can be a painful and annoying situation to deal with, particularly if you are at work or traveling. When you’re dealing with constipation, the only thing you want is immediate relief. We all know laxatives can produce a bowel movement but there are so many different laxative types and brands that come in multiple forms – such as pills, liquids, and powders – choosing the right one can be difficult. Many people whose bowels are screaming for relief are dying to know- what is the best instant laxative? Let’s take a closer look at what is the best instant or fastest-working laxative on the market.

Oral Laxatives

Most laxatives are taken orally as liquids, pills, or powders, and are typically taken at night to produce a bowel movement in the morning. There are generally four types of oral laxatives and they each operate differently. Osmotic, stimulant, bulk, and stool softeners are laxatives that help relieve the bowels by, respectively, drawing water into the colon, contracting the intestines, increasing the amount of stool to prompt movement out, or by drawing moisture into the stool to soften it and make it easier to pass. [1] Oral laxatives usually work six to eight hours after taking, but can take up to a day to truly take effect. [2] They will not make your body do anything until they’ve been digested and the active ingredients enter your system.

Rectal Laxatives

Rectal laxatives are a much different story and come in two forms: suppositories and enemas. They will typically produce the fastest laxative effect, sometimes as soon as 15 minutes to one hour after use. The effects of an enema are so strong that they are used to prepare for surgery, before giving birth, and after surgery when a patient needs to avoid straining during a bowel movement. [3]

The most powerful type of laxative is a sodium phosphate enema which can take effect within two to five minutes after use. However, these laxatives can be quite dangerous and should only be used when absolutely necessary. [4] The fastest acting suppository is a carbon dioxide releasing suppository, which can take effect within five minutes of use. Here is a quick list of the fasted acting suppositories and enemas:

Fastest Acting Suppositories

  • Carbon dioxide: 5 to 30 minutes
  • Bisacodyl: 15 minutes to 1 hour
  • Glycerin: 15 minutes to 1 hour
  • Senna: 30 minutes to one hour

Fastest Acting Enemas

  • Sodium Phosphate: 2 to 5 minutes
  • Docusate: 2 to 15 minutes
  • Bisacodyl: 15 minute to 1 hour
  • Mineral oil: 2 to 5 minutes

Should You Take An Instant Laxative?

Suppositories and enemas tend to be the fastest acting laxatives, but they can also become habit forming if taken on a regular basis. Excessive use of these produce can lead to laxative dependence for bowel movements and can also cause serious side effects such as damage to the nerves and muscles of the intestine. In my opinion, the risks do not weight the reward. Regularly cleansing your colon with a gentle, oxygen-based colon cleanser like Oxy-Powder® can help keep your bowel movements regular and satisfying, eliminating the need for “emergency” relief.

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM


  1. Mayo Clinic. Over-the-counter laxatives for constipation. (last accessed 2013-06-02).
  2. Kaiser Permanente. Oral Saline Laxative. (last accessed 2013-06-02).
  3. Mayo Clinic. Laxative (Rectal Route). (last accessed 2013-06-02).
  4. Ori Y, Rozen-Zvi B, Chagnac A, Herman M, Zingerman B, Atar E, Gafter U, Korzets A. Fatalities and severe metabolic disorders associated with the use of sodium phosphate enemas: a single center’s experience. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Feb 13;172(3):263-5. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.694.

Posted In: Colon Health Blog,Constipation
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