How do stimulant laxatives (Ex-Lax, Senokot) work?

Is it safe to use a stimulant laxative?

A common misconception about stimulant laxatives such as Ex-Lax and Senokot is that chemically-stimulated peristalsis ((intestinal muscle contractions that move stool toward the rectum) will begin to replace natural peristalsis because of damage to the intestinal tissue caused by the long-term use of senna-derived laxatives. However, studies over the past 30 years or more have concluded that the long-term use of stimulant laxatives does not cause intestinal damage. Moreover, published clinical research involving large groups of children treated with stimulant laxatives for a year or longer report that these children did not become dependent on stimulant laxatives to have bowel movements.

Nevertheless, I recommend the following usage guidelines:

  • Use the lowest dose possible.
  • Use intermittently if possible.
  • Discontinue if recipient experiences repeated cramping.
  • Limit continuous use to twelve months.