Mineral Oil for Constipation

By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, BDS
Mineral oil for constipation

Constipation affects the day-to-day functioning of a person, limiting his or her productivity.

While there are many ways to fight constipation, mineral oil is simple to find and can be effective. Mineral oil is a Lubricant laxative.

Chemically, it is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons derived from crude petroleum. Both mineral oil and stool softeners are helpful for those who should not strain during defecation, including those who have just had a baby, had a heart attack, or have just had surgery on hemorrhoids or to repair a hernia.

How mineral oil works

The Laxative effect of mineral oil may occur as early as 6–8 hours after oral administration. Mineral oil works by adding a slick layer to intestinal walls. The oil also coats the stool, making it more slick and therefore easier to pass through the colon. It lubricates fecal material and the lining of the intestinal mucosa.

Mineral oil appears to retard absorption of water from the intestinal tract by coating over receptors in the intestinal lining. This results in increased water retention, which in turn increases the bulk of stool, hastening evacuation.

Disadvantages of using mineral oil for constipation relief

  • Even though mineral oil is effective for constipation relief, it is advisable to use it only as a short-term treatment.

  • Since mineral oil may hinder nutrient absorption, it isn't recommended while taking medications or supplements.

  • With continued use, mineral oil can cause the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins from the intestines.

  • Rectal seepage can be a major problem, especially when taking larger amounts. The leakage may soil clothing and cause one's anus to be irritated and to itch. However, it may be possible to avoid the problem by either taking less or taking lower doses throughout the day.

  • Allergies: mineral oils may contain inactive ingredients which can cause allergic reactions or other problems.

  • The use of mineral oil may result in rectal reflex impairment.

  • Mineral oil for constipation may result in infection of or impaired healing of anorectic lesions.

Those on blood thinners should avoid taking mineral oil, since it hinders the utilization of vitamin K, and vitamin K plays an important role in blood clotting. Less vitamin K absorption might cause the blood to become too thin, which might cause wounds to bleed excessively.

Other cautions

  • Carotene: Mineral oil causes impaired absorption of Carotene, Digoxin and Oral contraceptives.

  • Taking stool softeners along with mineral oil can possibly increase mineral oil absorption.

  • Those who are pregnant should not take mineral oil, as it tends to hinder the digestive system from absorbing vitamins. Among other things, this could mean that the fetus doesn't have the vitamin K it needs.

Dangerous when aspirated

If mineral oil manages to seep into the lungs it may lead to pneumonia, and should not be taken by an individual that is just going to bed.

Various groups of people have a tendency to aspirate, especially when laying down. This includes those who find it hard to swallow, those who have had a stroke, older individuals and young children.

Only intended for short-term use

Taking mineral oil for constipation should only be done for a limited amount of time. When mineral oil is taken for an extended amount of time, too much will be absorbed by the body, with detrimental consequences.

A magnesium supplement - a viable alternative

In light of the above discussion, it can be concluded that mineral oil is not safe for long term use.

Moreover it should not be taken by certain age groups.

Magnesium emerges as a better choice when treating constipation. A nutritional supplement containing magnesium may offer an effective, long-term solution, as it may be taken daily for an indefinite period of time.

Note: Magnesium may interfere with the body's ability to utilize medications. Those with kidney disease may have difficulty in urinating out any excessive amount of magnesium, which can result in a magnesium toxicity. Therefore, ask your doctor before starting a daily magnesium supplement.

(Return from Mineral Oil for Constipation to Natural Remedies for Constipation)

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