[L. laxare, to loosen]
A food or chemical substance that acts to loosen the bowels and prevent or treat constipation. Laxatives may act by increasing peristalsis by irritating the intestinal mucosa, lubricating the intestinal walls, softening the bowel contents by increasing the amount of water in the intestines, and increasing the bulk of the bowel contents. Many people feel that it is essential to have one or more bowel movements a day, and, if they do not, they may develop the habit of taking some form of laxative daily. They should be instructed that missing a bowel movement is not harmful and that bowel movements do not necessarily occur at regular intervals.
SYN: SEE: aperient; SEE: cathartic; SEE: purgative
SEE: constipation; SEE: enema
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