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Laxative vs. Purgative: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sumera Saeed || By Sawaira Riaz || Updated on October 18, 2023
Laxatives gently facilitate bowel movements; purgatives rapidly cleanse the bowels, often more aggressively.

Key Differences

Laxatives are substances that promote bowel movement by softening the stool or increasing its bulk. Purgatives, on the other hand, are substances that lead to a more intense and rapid bowel evacuation.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023
When thinking about their intensity, laxatives can be considered milder in action. They are commonly used to treat occasional constipation by gently increasing the frequency of bowel movements. Purgatives, in contrast, have a much stronger effect, causing quick and sometimes forceful bowel movements.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023
The choice between laxatives and purgatives often depends on the desired outcome. Laxatives are usually sufficient for most people looking to address mild constipation or promote regularity. Purgatives are typically reserved for more severe cases or when a rapid clearing of the bowel is required.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023
In terms of side effects, laxatives, when used as directed, generally have fewer side effects and are less likely to cause dehydration or mineral imbalances. Purgatives, because of their strong action, might lead to dehydration, cramps, and other side effects if used frequently or improperly.
Harlon Moss
Oct 18, 2023
Both laxatives and purgatives should be used with caution. Long-term or excessive use of either can disrupt the natural function of the bowels, leading to dependency or other health issues.
Janet White
Oct 18, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Intensity

Milder, promotes gentle bowel movement
Stronger, causes rapid bowel evacuation
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Common Usage

Treats occasional constipation
Clears the bowel quickly, used in severe cases
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Frequency of Side Effects

Generally fewer when used properly
Can lead to more side effects like dehydration and cramps
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Dependency Risk

Lower when used as directed
Higher, especially with frequent use
Sara Rehman
Oct 18, 2023

Duration of Action

Works gradually
Acts quickly, sometimes within hours
Janet White
Oct 18, 2023
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Laxative and Purgative Definitions

Laxative

A substance that promotes easier bowel movements.
I took a laxative to relieve my constipation.
Janet White
Oct 18, 2023

Purgative

An agent that cleanses the bowels forcefully.
Some use a purgative to prepare for colonoscopies.
Harlon Moss
Oct 18, 2023

Laxative

A medication or food that encourages fecal evacuation.
Fiber acts as a natural laxative, aiding digestion.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Purgative

A remedy resulting in intense defecation.
If constipation becomes severe, a purgative might be prescribed.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Laxative

An agent that softens the stool.
The doctor recommended a natural laxative like prunes.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Purgative

A compound that induces forceful fecal discharge.
The traditional remedy included a powerful purgative herb.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 18, 2023

Laxative

A food or drug that stimulates evacuation of the bowels.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

A substance causing rapid and strong bowel evacuations.
Before the medical procedure, he was given a purgative.
Janet White
Oct 18, 2023

Laxative

Stimulating evacuation of the bowels.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

Strongly laxative
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Laxative

Causing looseness or relaxation, especially of the bowels.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

A medication leading to aggressive emptying of the intestines.
This purgative can cause dehydration if one isn't careful.
Harlon Moss
Oct 18, 2023

Laxative

Having the effect of moving the bowels, or aiding digestion and preventing constipation.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

Tending to cleanse or purge, especially causing evacuation of the bowels.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Laxative

Any substance, such as a food or in the form of a medicine which has a laxative effect.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

A purgative agent or medicine; a cathartic.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Laxative

Having a tendency to loosen or relax.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

(capable of) purging
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Laxative

Having the effect of loosening or opening the intestines, and relieving from constipation; - opposed to astringent.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

Something, such as a substance or medicine, that purges; laxative
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Laxative

A mild cathartic
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

Having the power or quality of purging; cathartic.
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Laxative

Stimulating evacuation of feces
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Purgative

A purging medicine; stimulates evacuation of the bowels
Sawaira Riaz
Feb 03, 2023

Laxative

A remedy used to address occasional constipation.
A mild laxative can be useful after surgery to promote regularity.
Harlon Moss
Oct 18, 2023

Laxative

A product that increases the water content in the intestines.
This laxative works by drawing water into the colon.
Sara Rehman
Oct 18, 2023

FAQs

What is a laxative?

A laxative is a substance that promotes easier bowel movements, often by softening the stool or increasing its bulk.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

When might a purgative be prescribed?

Purgatives might be used for severe constipation, bowel preparation before certain medical procedures, or rapid bowel cleansing.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

What is a purgative?

A purgative is a substance causing rapid and strong bowel evacuations, often used in more severe cases of constipation.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Are laxatives and purgatives the same?

No, while both aid in bowel movement, laxatives are milder and purgatives act more aggressively.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

When should I use a laxative?

Laxatives are typically used for mild to moderate constipation or to promote regular bowel movements.
Harlon Moss
Oct 18, 2023

Can I use laxatives regularly?

It's best to use laxatives as directed and not for prolonged periods, as long-term use can lead to dependency or other issues.
Sara Rehman
Oct 18, 2023

Can laxatives cause side effects?

Yes, if misused or overused, laxatives can cause side effects like diarrhea, dehydration, or imbalances in the body.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

What are common side effects of purgatives?

Purgatives can lead to dehydration, cramps, and rapid loss of electrolytes.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Is it possible to become dependent on purgatives?

Yes, frequent use of purgatives can lead to bowel dependency and disrupt natural bowel function.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 18, 2023

How do laxatives work?

Laxatives can work in several ways, including softening stools, drawing water into the intestines, or stimulating bowel movements.
Janet White
Oct 18, 2023

Is it safe to take purgatives during pregnancy?

It's crucial to consult a healthcare provider before using purgatives during pregnancy, as some may not be safe.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Are there natural laxatives?

Yes, foods like prunes, figs, and high-fiber foods can act as natural laxatives.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Are there natural purgatives?

Certain herbs and remedies, like senna and cascara, have purgative properties.
Janet White
Oct 18, 2023

Are purgatives safe for frequent use?

Purgatives, due to their strong action, should be used with caution and not frequently to avoid side effects like dehydration.
Janet White
Oct 18, 2023

Can I become dependent on laxatives?

Yes, prolonged or excessive use of laxatives can lead to a dependency where the bowel struggles to function naturally without them.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

How can I choose between a laxative and a purgative?

The choice depends on the desired outcome and the severity of the constipation; consult a healthcare professional for the best recommendation.
Sara Rehman
Oct 18, 2023

Can children use laxatives?

Some laxatives are safe for children, but always consult a pediatrician before giving any medication to children.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 18, 2023

Are purgatives recommended for children?

Generally, purgatives are not the first choice for children and should only be used under medical supervision.
Sara Rehman
Oct 18, 2023

How do purgatives function?

Purgatives work by causing rapid and sometimes forceful bowel movements, often through stimulating the intestines or increasing fluid secretion.
Sara Rehman
Oct 18, 2023

Can I take a laxative while pregnant?

Some laxatives may be safe during pregnancy, but always consult a healthcare provider before use.
Harlon Moss
Oct 18, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited by
Sumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.

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