Glycerin suppositories are a type of medication that is placed directly into the rectum in order to relieve mild to moderate constipation. Most of the time they come in a torpedo-shaped capsule. The outer layer has a gelatin cover that will typically break down shortly after it enters the body, revealing glycerin in either liquid or solid form. Glycerin absorbs water and can soften stool, making it easier for a person to pass; the capsules also provide lubrication that can help reduce straining. These types of suppositories can get faster results than many oral laxatives, but in most cases they only work for blockages located in the lower intestine. They are generally considered safe though some medical experts discourage regular use because people can sometimes become dependent, and also because excessive exposure to glycerin can wear down the lining of the small intestine over time.
How They Work
The main goal behind most suppositories is to soften stool and make it easier and less painful to pass. Glycerin is unique in that it is a naturally occurring substance made primarily of sugar and alcohol that dissolves quickly and provides exceptional lubrication. These sorts of suppositories are usually made of hardened glycerin that will melt once in contact with the body’s internal heat; some also contain liquid that is released once the outer cover dissolves.
In either case, the substance, if properly inserted high in the rectum, will stimulate the intestinal tract, absorb moisture from the immediate environment, and lubricate the way for stool to move down and out of the body. People usually take this sort of medication when they’ve been constipated for a few days or when surgery or other medical issue — childbirth is a common one — makes it painful to strain or push stool out naturally. It is best for mild to moderate blockages, and isn’t normally strong enough to combat serious intestinal issues.
Basic Usage Instructions
Glycerin suppositories must be inserted directly into the rectum, usually with one or two fingers. Manufactures often recommend that people use a glove coated with a water-based lubricant to push the suppository, which makes it easier to get it high up because it reduces friction; wearing a glove is also a good way to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. Ideally the suppository should be held in place for about a minute in order to prevent it from being forced out.
Many people find it helpful to lie down on their side and clench the anal muscles for several minutes after use to help keep the suppository in place. This may speed up the dissolving process. It’s also usually suggested that people wait at least 15 minutes before using the bathroom to get the best effect. This can be challenging because the urge to “go” gets tends to get strong when a suppository is in place. Still, even if people use the toilet and expel the suppository before the 15 minutes are up, they may retain some of the benefits and constipation could still be alleviated.
Different Kinds of Constipation
These sorts of suppositories usually only work to address constipation in the lower bowel. In most cases they works through direct contact, and as such they’re best suited in situations when fecal matter is hardened and difficult to pass near the rectal opening. If the blockage is in the upper gastrointestinal areas the glycerin may not do much at all, since it likely won’t be able to reach the problem. Oral laxatives are often better in these situations.
Risks and Warnings
Some experts have expressed concern that using these suppositories too often may create a dependence on them, to the extent that people may find it very difficult to have bowel movements without using one. Most medical professionals don’t recommend that people use these for more than about a week at a time. People who have constipation lasting longer than this may have a chronic condition that needs more aggressive treatment.
There are also some concerns in the medical community that repeated use of suppositories of any kind can damage the tissue lining the intestine and colon. This sort of damage is usually only seen with extensive use over a long period of time, but it is something patients should consider. Most suppositories are intended for adult use, too, and should not be given to children or infants without express direction from a medical care provider.