Stool Softeners: What to Expect

Medically reviewed by: Eiman Firoozmand, MD

Hemorrhoids are very common. Millions of people suffer from them, especially as they get older. Hemorrhoids are veins outside or inside your anus that are swollen and inflamed, causing discomfort, pain, itching, bleeding, and other symptoms. Usually, you get them from straining during bowel movements, if you are overweight or obese, or if you are pregnant or have delivered a baby recently. Over-the-counter stool softeners are often effective in providing short-term relief.

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Ease the Pain

Hemorrhoids and constipation are often painful health conditions. You experience pain in your rectum, especially when sitting down – whether at a desk or on the toilet.

There are four kinds of products that can prevent or treat constipation and hemorrhoids:

  • Bulking Agents (i.e., bran, skins of beans and fruits, whole wheat, brown rice, spinach, broccoli)
  • Stool Softeners (i.e., methyl cellulose, fiber, docusate)
  • Osmotic Laxatives (i.e., polyethylene glycol or PEG)
  • Stimulant Laxatives (i.e., aloe, cascara, senna, castor oil)

Stool softeners tend to be more helpful and safer than laxatives. Short-term use of stool softeners to treat hemorrhoids and constipation does not become a habit or cause damage to your intestine or colon.

Stool softeners are available in various forms, including:

  • Capsules
  • Tablets
  • Liquids

Take the stool softener in the morning when you get home from work or early in the evening, as it begins to work within just a few hours. Carefully follow the instructions on the package, and contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

Soft Stools is a Key Strategy

To prevent or minimize hemorrhoids, as well as constipation, stool softeners are sometimes necessary. Stool softeners bring water found in your body into your stool to soften it and make it easier to pass. Also, softeners decrease constipation and the pressure put on your hemorrhoids. Soft stools are key when it comes to hemorrhoids and constipation.

When shopping for over-the-counter and natural stool softeners, they may contain:

  • Methyl cellulose
  • Fiber
  • Docusate sodium
  • Senna (a laxative)
  • Phenophthalein (a laxative)
  • Aloe vera
  • Mineral oils
  • Bran
  • Psyllium
  • Plantain

No matter which stool softener you select, you need to make sure to stay hydrated. Drink eight to 12 glasses of water every day. This helps soften your stool in conjunction with the stool softener. Avoid caffeinated drinks, including coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol because they may cause you to become dehydrated.

Stool softener dosage depends on various factors, including age and form. For example, an adult should take 200 mg of docusate orally per day but can take up to 500 mg.

Stool softeners are for short-term relief only. They can have side effects, including diarrhea, or nutrient loss, if used habitually. You may also feel weak and nauseated if you excessively take stool softeners.

Other Options

Stool softeners may be necessary, but you do have other options, non-invasive and invasive, to treat hemorrhoids and constipation.

  • High-Fiber Diet: To absorb and retain water, make sure to eat plenty of fiber and probiotics, including beans, yogurt, vegetables, and fruits.
  • Ice Pack/Compress: Place an ice pack or compress on the affected area to reduce swelling and minimize pain.
  • Witch Hazel: This extract eases hemorrhoid and constipation symptoms, such as pain and swelling.
  • Warm Baths: Fill your bathtub with a few inches of warm water, and soak in it for about 15 minutes.
  • Topical Treatments: Hemorrhoid cream is available in most pharmacies and reduces swelling. Apply hemorrhoid cream on the outside of your anus/rectum, or inside it to reduce hemorrhoid symptoms.
  • Surgery/Medical Procedures: There are various options to remove hemorrhoids, including cauterization, freezing, rubber band ligation, and hemorrhoidopexy (PPH).

You can utilize these alternative options along with stool softeners or on their own.

Stool Softeners to the Rescue

Hemorrhoids and constipation are uncomfortable. To ease the pain and other symptoms, try stool softeners to make your stools easy to pass. Over-the-counter stool softeners and other options are available and start to work in just a few hours.

Are you ready to purchase a stool softener? Let us know if it works by leaving us a comment below or sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on future similar topics.

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