Laxatives refer to a group of substances which are used to stimulate the intestines, the result of which is to cause bowel movement. Laxatives are used for people who are having problems excreting solid waste - a condition called constipation. There are various causes for constipation: lack of fiber in the diet, lack of water, anxiety, etc.
There are five main types of laxatives:
Fiber or bulk laxatives - these are bran or cellulose products; they work by increasing fiber in the body, which naturally stimulate the intestines, resulting in bowel movement.
Hyperosmotics or salts - these laxatives work by increasing the amount of water in the intestines, obtaining the same results as the previous group of laxatives. The big advantage of salts is that they do not have the side effect of bloating, which some people experience with fibers.
Stimulants or cathartics - these laxatives have ingredients that work directly to stimulate the muscles of the intestines.
Softeners - these laxatives basically add water to whatever is in the intestines.
Lubricants - it does what it says on the tin - lubricate the intestines. Mineral oil is the most common example.
Laxatives should not be used on a regular basis. They are only necessary if problems in moving your bowels are occur for prolonged periods of time. The fact is that daily bowel movement is not a requirement for everyone. Some people actually do not need to excrete waste on a daily basis. If you use laxatives too often for too long, the body’s normal functions may be disrupted. If you have recurring problems with bowel movement, it is best to see your doctor rather than using laxatives as a default all the time.