Laxative administration is one of the most common methods for treating gastrointestinal issues in the western world. They work by stimulating the bowels to evacuate. Laxatives are especially useful in cases of constipation, the inability to have a bowel movement over extended periods. There are several mechanisms of action among different types of laxatives. There are six different types of laxatives sold today. Three of the most common are bulk-forming laxatives, which add volume to the stool; lubricant laxatives, which coat the stool to make it more slippery and easier to evacuate; and stool softeners, which increase the amount of water in the stool to make it pass smoothly. Most laxatives are available over-the-counter. Usually, laxatives work safely and effectively. However, they occasionally cause uncomfortable side effects.
Bloating is the appearance or sensation of swelling in the stomach, especially after meals. Most commercially available laxatives list this as one of the most common side effects of the products. This is usually caused by stomach muscles moving incorrectly or by too much gas in the stomach. Laxatives can also cause the body to become bloated by dehydrating it, using the body's supply of water to lubricate and loosen stools. In response, the body attempts to retain as much water as possible to conserve its stores. As a result, many parts of the body, including the belly, hands, feet, or face can appear swollen. If this condition continues for several days, seek medical attention.