What is a laxative?

I thought that it would be important to talk about what a laxative is, how a laxative works, what a laxative does and more importantly, the benefits that can be realized through the cleansing process that mild laxatives provide.

First I’ll give you some definitions:

Laxative: (lăk'sə-tĭv) n.
A food or drug that stimulates evacuation of the bowels.
Stimulating evacuation of the bowels.
Causing looseness or relaxation, especially of the bowels.
[Middle English, from Old French laxatif, from Medieval Latin laxātīvus, preventing constipation, from Late Latin, assuaging, from Latin laxātus, past participle of laxāre, to relax, from laxus, loose. See lax.]


Constipation: con·sti·pa·tion (kŏn'stə-pā'shən) n.
Difficult, incomplete, or infrequent evacuation of dry hardened feces from the bowels.
Obstruction; stultification.
It is very obvious that by definition there is a very specific action that is required before a food or drug can be considered to be a laxative. There are several different kinds of laxatives on the market today. Some of them are chemically based, such as drugs, both over the counter (OTC) and prescription and others are in food groups such as dried fruits or herbs. Laxatives can also be grouped by mechanism of action.
  • Saline cathartics, include dibasic sodium phosphate, magnesium citrate, magnesium hydroxide, magnesium sulfate, sodium biphosphate, and others. They act by attracting and holding water in the intestinal lumen, and may produce a watery stool. Magnesium sulfate is the most potent in this group. The
  • Hyperosmotic laxatives are either glycerin or lactulose. They both act by holding water within the intestine. Lactulose may also increase peristaltic action of the intestine.
  • A Docusate, is the only real stool softener. It holds water in the fecal mass, creating a larger, softer stool. The issue here is that docusates have no effect on constipation since it must be present in the digestive tract before the fecal mass forms to have any effect. It may however, be useful for prevention of recurrent constipation or for those who are about to take a constipating drug, such as narcotic analgesics.
  • A Stimulant laxative increases the peristaltic movement of the intestine. Some examples are Cascara Sagrada and Bisadocyl. Castor oil also works in a similar fashion. Peristaltic movement is the rhythmic contraction of the peristaltic muscles which surround the intestine. The rhythmic contractions move the food through the digestive tract, through the colon and out of the bowel.
  • Bulk producing laxatives or fiber increase the volume of the stool, and will both soften the stool and increase motility. Psyllium and methylcellulose are examples of this type. The overall effect is similar to that of eating high fiber foods, this class and the stimulant class,(in moderation) of laxatives are the most suitable for regular use.

You can see that there are many kinds of laxatives available to the millions of Americans that suffer from some form of constipation. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal complaints in the United States. More than 4 million Americans have frequent constipation, accounting for 2.5 million physician visits a year. Those reporting constipation most often are women and adults ages 65 and older. Pregnant women may have constipation, and it is a common problem following childbirth or surgery. It is not limited to just those groups though. Constipation is also prevalent in younger Americans that consume fast foods that are heavy in fat content and also anyone who consumes some of the many prescription drugs that are available on the market today. Regardless to say constipation, even temporary bouts, are an issue that creates extreme discomfort and can lead to more serious issues if it is not addressed. The two mpst common types of laxatives that I listed last are STIMULANTS and BULK PRODUCING LAXATIVES. I listed them last because I feel that it is a combination of these two categories that produce the best results with the fewest adverse side effects. I favor those two categories for several reasons… First, these are the ONLY types of laxatives that don’t use the retention of water as the mechanism or vehicle to accomplish the task at hand. This is very important to those individuals that are trying to shed a few pounds. It is also important to note that the bloated feeling that sometimes comes with taking a laxative is the water that is being held in the bowel. Second, a comfortable bowel movement isn’t the only goal for a good laxative. A good laxative should not only help with comfortable elimination but it should cleanse the colon walls and help promote and restore the proper function of your colon. Over the years our colons have to endure all of the junk food and constipating prescription drugs that we consume. It is fair to assume that there will be a certain amount of build-up on the colon walls. That build-up then prevents the colon from performing at its best. This makes it imperative that a laxative acts in two ways; first to help with comfortable and regular bowel movements and second it must clean the hardened plaque filled feces off of the colon wall. This prevents fecal matter build-up from being the center of future health related issues. Finally and equally as important when properly formulated and properly used both the BULK PRODUCING and the STIMULANTS may be suited for regular use.

  • Dr. Bernard Jensen, D.C., Ph. D., Nutritionalist once wrote; “In the 50 years I’ve spent helping people to overcome health related issues, it has become crystal clear that poor bowel management lies at the root of most people’s problems. In treating over 300,000 patients, it is the bowel that invariably has to be cared for before any healing can take place.”
  • There are many studies and statements concerning the role of the bowel or colon in our overall health and in the metabolism of the food consumed from day to day. In order to understand what makes Dr. Bernard’s statement so correct, it is important to understand what the colon is and what functions it performs.

The colon is an important part of the digestive tract. In adult humans, the colon is about five feet long and connects the small intestine to the rectum. The major function of the colon is to extract water, nutrients and salts/ minerals from the partially digested food that enters from the small intestine. Approximately 2 pints of partially digested liquid matter enters the colon each day and about 1/3 of a pint of a solid stool leaves the colon each day. The difference in the volume is due to the colon’s absorption of useful and/ or valuable portions of the partially digested food such as water nutrients and minerals. This is to say that the lion’s share of everything that enters the colon is extracted from the partially digested food and introduced into the body through the colon.

Colon motility (the contraction of the muscles surrounding the colon [the peristaltic muscles] and the movement of its contents) is controlled by nerves, hormones and impulses in the colon. These rhythmic contractions slowly move the contents inside the colon toward the rectum. During this passage, the water and nutrients are absorbed into the body and what is left over is fecal matter or the stool that is to be eliminated through the rectum. A few times each day, the contractions push the stool down to the end of the colon resulting in a bowel movement. A normal bowel movement is firm but not hard, contains no blood and is completely passed without cramps or pain. If the peristaltic muscles do not contract the right way then the contents inside the colon do not move correctly, they move too quickly or too slowly. This coupled with the types of food recently consumed can create overly watery or very hard stools. As a result abdominal pain, cramps, constipation, diarrhea and a sense of incomplete stool movement can occur.

One of the most important functions to pay attention to is the absorption of water, nutrients and salts/ minerals. It is in this function that the logic of a toxic colon is a major contributor to illness and disease. When a colon is functioning properly and the colon walls are clean we receive all of the beneficial elements that remain in the partially digested food. The colon contributes to our overall health and well being. We receive those elements that give us energy, help us to fortify ourselves against attacks on our immune system. One might even say that because of this our outlook on life might be more positive so it is even good for us psychologically. However when the colon wall is spackled with a semi hard paste comprised of plaque, hardened fecal matter and uneliminated toxins not only do we fail to receive all of those beneficial elements from the partially digested matter, but as the colon attempts to do its job it will absorb the toxins that remain close to the colon walls. This becomes a tax on our immune system as the toxins that our body worked so hard to eliminate are reintroduced into our body. This perpetuates itself because, when fecal matter gathers on the colon wall the colon’s performance is hindered. The more the colon’s performance is hindered the more toxic fecal matter can gather on the colon wall. This process grows and our health and energy levels suffer. The result is a negative effect on our physical and psychological well being. It is of the utmost importance that we maintain a healthy colon. Keeping the colon walls clean and the peristaltic muscles working properly will aid in a healthier colon. One way to accomplish this is with a good laxative that cleanses the colon walls, stimulates the peristaltic muscles and does not withhold precious water from our bodies.

There are some important issues in regards to products that I would like to discuss as they relate to healthy colon functions. These products should be able to cleanse the colon walls as well as maintain a healthy colon function. First, I feel that there should a well established source of fiber. Remember fiber is one of the laxatives that are safe for regular use. Second, since one of the functions is to absorb water back into the body it would be important not to use a product that uses the much needed water to move the stool, soften the stool or enlarge the stool to create a bowel movement. This would include the docusate, hyperosmotic and saline cathartic laxatives. This leaves only 2 logical choices for laxative types, which are bulk producing and stimulant type laxatives. It would be important to note that a stimulant should be mild and completely natural, not derivatives or extracts that increase the strength and produce possible adverse side effects. There are many herbal products that are good when used by themselves but even better when used in combination with each other. They produce consistently great results and have minimal side effects. Here is a short list:

  • Cascara Sagrada - known as a stimulant, also known for restoring tone to the colon walls.
  • Senna Pods - known as a mild stimulant, it is also known as a soothing mucilage (produces a jelly like substance to line the mucous membranes/ digestive tract).
  • Psyllium Seeds - creates bulk and lubricates the colon wall.
  • Turkey Rhubarb - known as a fiber, creates bulk and cleanses digestive tract. 

There are other issues that need addressing as we cleanse our colons. It is important to consume water, not soda pop or other sugary liquids. With that being said we should also take a close look at our diet. Eating fatty fast foods accompanied with large amounts of breads and pasta’s will not help when trying to maintain a healthy digestive system. This is generally what creates the problem in the first place. Lastly it is important to know that when we cleanse our colon we will peel away layers of fecal matter and expose some potentially raw spots on our colon wall. This creates a need for soothing agents like aloe and other herbs that promote balance and proper function of the colon and bowel.

 We can all take advantage of various natural methods to cleanse our colon. This in turn will help to rid us of illness causing toxins that build up in the colon, hamper our immune system and rob us of valuable energy. In this article I have discussed laxatives, what they do, what they are, how they work and a few of the raw materials I feel best accomplish a colon cleanse. I think that you need to know what the benefits are, “What’s in it for you?” I think you need to know what the benefits of cleansing and maintaining a healthy colon really are. I have listed a few benefits of colon cleansing below: 

  1. Cleansing and detoxification:
Most of us know that we are overloading our body with toxins acquired from the environment, from foods that are grown in soil containing contaminants or pollutants and from processed foods containing partially hydrogenates oils and several of the toxic preservatives. Due to the large intake in the American diet, our body is sometimes unable to expel all of these harmful toxins. This leads to an accumulation of toxic waste that all of our internal organs have to deal with, especially the liver, kidney, lungs skin, lymph nodes and colon. Some of the negative effects from this accumulation are lowered immunity, gastro intestinal problems, problems with the skin such as severe acne, psoriasis, some forms of eczema, headaches, migraines, sluggishness and irregular bowel movements or constipation. Therefore it is necessary to perform internal cleansing, especially the colon so that our elimination and filtration systems run at peak performance. This is the only way we can defend ourselves against the onslaught of attacks that we have to endure during our lives.
  1. Freedom from digestive tract issues:

The most common and easily identifiable symptoms of an unhealthy colon are constipation and irregular bowel movements. Stomach pains heartburn, acidity, gastritis, flatulence and bloating are also major symptoms that point toward an unhealthy and clogged colon. When you cleanse your colon using natural methods all of the waste and toxins being stored in the colon are flushed out. Your digestive system is the benefactor. It can resume its normal functioning, thus making you healthier and free from some of those digestive issues I mentioned above. This by itself is a worthwhile benefit, but it is just the beginning. This is the catalyst for some more and even more important benefits.

  1. Stronger, more effective immune system:

In review I have established that a toxic colon will facilitate the absorption of those toxins back into our blood stream and those toxins will promote disease or at the very least place extra burden on your immune system. Your immune system already fought them once and is busy fighting the newly introduced diseases and toxins that we encounter on a daily basis. When your immune system has to deal with toxins that come from exterior sources and then get attacked from interior sources too it can become over burdened and thereby weakened. It is in this weak state that our bodies contract illness and disease. A clean, properly functioning colon will help to eliminate that second threat and alleviate your immune system so that it can function more efficiently. 

  1. Greater energy and vitality:

As you keep stuffing your body with toxins contained in processed and overcooked foods, sugary drinks, excessive alcohol, caffeine and nicotine as well as drugs and medications for all kinds of ailments, the organs in your body, especially your digestive tract, liver, kidneys and colon start requiring more and more resources (energy)  to perform their tasks. That is to eliminate the poisons, toxins, bacteria, harmful germs and virus’ from your system. When your internal organs become plugged up and bogged down your body will devote more and more of that valuable energy to defending itself. As a result, you will start to feel tired and sluggish. You will have been seemingly shortchanged on energy, you will have a lack of concentration and your jobs and your relationships will suffer. Cleansing is a defense against this. When you cleanse your colon and other internal organs you will feel a considerable increase in your energy levels because instead of fighting toxins you will be receiving minerals and nutrients that help to provide the very energy that toxins rob you of. 

There really are a great number of benefits that come with a clean, clear and properly functioning colon. I have personally experienced the difference and I am telling you that there is a noticeable difference. I would urge you to try a good colon cleanse, hopefully ours. Our Totally Herbal Colon Cleanse package has all of the right elements, and has been time tested with thousands of positive results. Our Herbal Colon Cleanse and Tonic in combination with our all natural SuperLax are the one – two punch that you need to start toward that most important colon cleanse. SuperLax and Herbal Colon Cleanse & Tonic are our best selling products. They have a history that started well before any colon cleanse craze started. Give them a try! You'll become a "REGULAR" client like so many others have over the last four plus decades.

Have a healthy happy day!


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