How can constipation be overcome?
In France, almost 1 in 5 people suffer from chronic constipation. While being constipated is usually harmless and not symptomatic of an underlying disease, it can be debilitating on a daily basis. It is difficult to lead a serene life when you’re suffering from bloating, intestinal disorders or cramps. You can take laxatives to treat constipation and stimulate passing stool. However, if you experience severe pain or notice blood in your stool, you should contact your doctor immediately.
Types of laxatives for constipation
• Osmotic laxatives: As their name suggests, these products for constipation act through “osmosis”, which means that they stimulate the intestines to absorb water and retain it within the stool, thereby loosening it and making it bulkier. However, the drawback is that they can create a dependency and cause fluid and electrolyte disorders (imbalance of the ratio between the minerals and water contained in the body), such as hypokalaemia (low levels of potassium in the blood).
• Stimulant laxatives: Also called irritant laxatives, they trigger the muscles of the intestines to contract by acting directly on the intestinal mucosa. They have the same side effects as osmotic laxatives, but to a greater extent and more serious in the long term, such as melanosis coli (pigmentation disorder of the colon wall) or irritable bowel syndrome.
• Stool softener laxatives: These include mineral oils, mainly liquid paraffin. They help evacuate stool by making it easier to pass. However, by dissolving fat soluble nutrients, they limit their absorption and can therefore lead to deficiencies in certain vitamins (A, D, E, K) in case of long-term use. As such, they should be advised against in cases of dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing) due to the risk of aspiration pneumonia (i.e. inhaling a liquid or an object into the lungs).
• Plant-based laxatives: Bulk-forming laxatives: These are insoluble, hydrophilic fibres such as mucilages, which swell up upon contact with water. They make stools bulkier all the while softening them by absorbing water. Their taste is not particularly pleasant and, given the amount of water that must be consumed while taking them, they can lead to abdominal discomfort.
· Prebiotics: These are soluble fibres that are easily fermented by gut flora, which feeds on them to develop. They do not cause irritation, reduced nutrients absorption, or dependency. There are few side effects reported, none of which are serious. Possible side effects include bloating, which disappears with time as bowel function returns to normal. To avoid such side effects, we advise starting treatment gradually and adjusting it depending on your tolerance. Prebiotic laxatives are the most physiological and the most effective in relieving intestinal constipation in the long term.
• Probiotic food supplements: These bacteria are naturally present in the intestine and beneficial to our health. A concentrated intake of probiotics in the form of dietary supplements can strengthen gut flora by increasing the number of intestinal bacteria. They need time to settle in and grow, however. This means that they have an effect in the long term and do not offer immediate relief from constipation.
OptiFibre® is a prebiotic in the form of a 100% plant-based tasteless and odourless powder that contains highly fermentable soluble fibre. It is made of guar gum - partially hydrolysed to facilitate its consumption - that helps enrich food with soluble fibre to ensure a physiological and natural digestive action, namely a laxative effect, followed by the development of gut flora bacteria and a return to normal bowel movements. Another advantage of OptiFibre® is that it can be adapted to suit your needs; it can be used in the short or long terms and does not lead to dependence. Moreover, it is both lactose- and gluten-free.