Best Laxatives

Updated September 2021
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
18 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
65 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best laxatives

After a week of poor eating on vacation, your stomach might rebel and leave you straining in the bathroom. A new medication could block up your system and cause you to become irregular. The solution for temporary constipation? A laxative that helps soften hard stools and reduces the need to strain.

While laxatives aren't a replacement for a healthy, high-fiber diet, they're useful for sudden digestive issues that cause constipation. Digestive health is imperative for your overall well-being. When your bowels aren’t working as they should, it can seriously affect your comfort.

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Seeing blood in your stool? Even if you think it’s due to straining, speak to your doctor.

Causes of constipation

It’s never fun to be blocked up, and it isn’t normal. What’s the cause of straining and constipation? Here are a few reasons why you might experience issues in the bathroom. Thankfully, most problems with constipation can be resolved with a lifestyle change.

  • Bad diet: Not enough fiber means that your stool likely comes out hard and is difficult to pass.

  • Lack of exercise: Physical activity literally jostles your insides. Anyone who has ever started a run and had to rush to the bathroom knows this to be true. Spending more time on the couch than walking or working out can slow down your system.

  • Medication: Some medications can affect your digestive system or cause dehydration, resulting in constipation.

  • Supplements: Suddenly finding yourself stuck in the bathroom? It might be those new vitamins you’re popping every morning.

  • Chronic conditions: Some illnesses can cause chronic constipation. Bedridden patients often experience fewer bowel movements because of inactivity.

  • Serious illness: Certain cancers may affect digestive health. Obstructions in the intestinal tract or rectum can also cause difficulty passing stool.

How to counteract constipation

  • Eat fiber: You can help avoid constipation in the future by including lots of fiber in your diet. Not big on fruits and veggies? There are plenty of high-fiber cereal options available for breakfast.

  • Drink water: Don’t neglect hydrating throughout the day. When things get busy, it’s easy to ignore your natural thirst mechanism. Fill up a water bottle at the start of the day and aim to drink periodically until it’s empty.

  • Go: And finally, don’t hold it. If you have to go, head to the bathroom.


Types of laxatives

Navigating pharmacy aisles is never easy. You’ll find multiple brands selling the same product and various versions of medications and supplements that perform the same function. While laxatives technically all provide the same relief from constipation that you might expect, the different types achieve the same results in different ways. Some are more likely to cause side effects than others.

Read the ingredients. Opt for laxatives with fewer active ingredients to reduce the number of potential side effects. And watch out – some laxatives contain lactose and aren’t recommended for lactose-intolerant individuals.

Choose a formula. Laxatives are available in capsule, powder, or suppository forms. Powders need to be mixed into water or juice, so you’re less likely to become dehydrated. Suppositories are fast acting, and capsules are convenient for travel.


Bulk-forming laxatives are also known as fiber supplements. These are taken orally mixed in water or juice and are gentle on the digestive system and safe to use. These laxatives aid in returning your digestive system back to normal by encouraging the intestinal muscles to contract. The caveat is that if you’re not drinking enough fluids when taking this type of laxative, you could become even more constipated than you were to begin with. That’s why a bulk-forming laxative is typically mixed into a large glass of liquid.


Osmotic laxatives, taken orally, direct water into the intestinal tract to prevent constipation. Again, if you’re not drinking water regularly, these products might cause you to become dehydrated over time.

Stool softeners

Taken orally, these laxatives help with constipation by increasing the moisture content in the stool, helping to soften it and make it easier to pass a bowel movement.


Stimulants are also taken orally and encourage the intestinal muscles to contract, kicking your digestive system into a higher gear when things have slowed down. However, if these are taken too often, your body could become dependent on them.


A suppository is a type of laxative that's inserted into the rectum. Suppositories work double-time to stimulate contractions and soften the stool. They work faster than other types of laxatives.

Side effects of laxatives

Taking a laxative means smooth sailing for bowel movements, but getting your digestive tract to work regularly again might cause you to experience some discomfort. Side effects to expect when taking a laxative include the following:

  • Bloating and gas

  • Stomach cramps

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Loss of electrolytes

  • Dehydration

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Pregnant women should avoid stimulant-type laxatives and consult with a physician before using other laxatives.

Laxative safety considerations

It’s important to remember that laxatives aren’t designed for regular use. These products are intended to treat occasional bouts of constipation and aid users with certain conditions that make it difficult to pass stool comfortably (such as hemorrhoids). Prolonged use of laxatives can cause an electrolyte imbalance, potentially leading to heart problems. Some laxatives might interact with medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before using this kind of product. Since laxatives act on your body’s digestive system, they may also interfere with nutrient absorption.

Though there are many laxative products designed exclusively for children, it’s a good idea to check with a doctor before giving a laxative to a child.

If laxatives aren’t helping your situation, your constipation could be the result of something serious. Speak to your doctor. Monitoring your bowel movements is a great way to stay abreast of your health. A change in regularity or stool appearance is a signal that something might be wrong. A recent low-nutrition meal or a pause in your regular fitness routine might be the culprit, but if you can’t pinpoint an immediate cause for the change, it’s the first sign that you might need to consult with your healthcare provider.

Laxative prices

Laxatives are available over the counter for under $10. The price varies depending on the brand. Children’s laxatives might cost more than those for adults, but these still shouldn’t set you back more than $20.

We don’t suggest spending more on bulk laxatives. Unlike supplements and vitamins, these aren’t designed to be ingested regularly, so paying more for a larger, longer-lasting bottle doesn’t necessarily represent a good value.

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Fewer visits to the bathroom could be a sign that you have a bowel obstruction.


Q. How often should I be having bowel movements?

A. Regularity varies from person to person, but you should have an idea of what’s normal for you. If that changes, you might be constipated. In general, experiencing fewer than three bowel movements in a week might be cause for concern.

Q. Can I try something else before opting for a laxative?

A. Eating foods high in fiber, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of physical activity are the best ways to get your digestive system moving naturally.

Q. How much fiber should I include in my diet?

A. Adults should aim to include 30 grams of fiber per day in their diets by eating fruits, vegetables, and other high-fiber foods. A fiber-rich diet helps your digestive system stay healthy. Some studies show that diets high in fiber reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

Q. Do I need a prescription for laxatives?

A. No. Most laxatives are available over the counter. However, you might be prescribed a laxative prior to surgery to clear out your system. Just because you don’t need a prescription to buy laxatives doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consult a doctor before taking one.

Q. How does a suppository laxative work?

A. This type of laxative is inserted into the rectum. Suppositories dissolve and are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream for fast-acting results.

Q. Is an enema the same as a suppository?

A. No. A laxative suppository contains active ingredients that stimulate your intestinal tract and help soften stools. They are in solid form and inserted into the rectum. An enema involves forcing liquid into a patient’s backside. One might be used to relieve constipation or empty the bowels before surgery. Enemas are stronger than suppositories. The two should not be used together.

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