Information for those with Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis Medications - Laxatives

For people with colitis constipation is something that should be avoided. It usually occurs when going into remission and the bowels are not used to handling the more solid matter after months of persistent diarrhea. The type of laxatives used are generally of the mild variety.


Lactulose is fairly safe to use with colitis - and is the laxative of choice.
Lactulose is known as an 'osmotic laxative'. It is made up of sugar molecules which are broken down by the bacteria that live in the lower part of the gut. This leads to the contents of the gut becoming more acidic. The acidification of the contents of the gut causes a reduction in the absorption of a chemical called ammonia. The presence of ammonia in the gut causes water to be drawn into the lower bowel, which causes an increase in the water content and volume of the stools, therefore relieving constipation.

Docusate Sodium

Docusate sodium must be used with much more caution than lactulose. In particular it must not be used if there is the risk of the bowel being either obstructed or damaged/torn.
Docusate is known as a 'stimulant laxative'. It acts on nerve endings in the gut wall. These nerves then make the muscles in the intestine contract with more force and more often. When the gut contracts, it moves the contents along faster, and so it reduces constipation. It may also act by softening the feces. The muscle contractions move the feces through the bowel faster, meaning that there is less time for water to be absorbed from the feces in the gut into the blood. As a result, the feces contain more water and are softer and easier to pass. As docusate increases the activity of the muscle in the gut, it often causes stomach cramps. The tablets take about 1 to 2 days to work.

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