Suppositories for Constipation Relief

Constipation affects every person at some point in their lives. It can cause discomfort, pain, and even bleeding from the rectum. If left untreated, it can result in serious health problems such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and fecal impaction.

There are several ways to treat constipation. Suppositories are one of them. They are designed to provide relief from constipation. 

This article will take a look at using suppositories for constipation relief, its side effects, and precautions to using a suppository.  

What is a Suppository?

A suppository is a small package filled with medicine that is inserted into the rectum. It contains an over-the-­counter medicine called bisacodyl or glycerin, known for its stimulant laxative properties.

Suppositories are mainly used for the following reasons:

  • To relieve symptoms of constipation or impaction.
  • To cleanse the rectum and lower intestines to prepare for an examination.
  • To remove feces from the body to prevent contamination during surgery.

The active ingredients that are used in suppositories, bisacodyl and glycerin, are considered stimulant laxatives. The suppository is inserted into the rectum about an inch inside. It works by melting to release the medication.

The medication stimulates the nerves in the rectal and colon walls to contract, which is called peristalsis. It is the peristalsis action of the colon that relieves constipation by breaking up and moving any impacted feces through the intestines.

How to Use a Suppository

Suppositories are used by inserting them into the anus. Follow these steps: 

  1. Insertion of a suppository is best done while lying down on your left side. Have your left knee slightly bent, and raise your right knee toward your chest.
  2. Insert the suppository’s pointed end about one inch into your rectum by using one finger.
  3. After inserting the suppository into your rectum, you should lie on your side for about fifteen minutes to ensure it doesn’t come out before it melts.
  4. After insertion, you can expect results within 15-30 minutes.
  5. It is important to wear gloves and wash your hands prior to and after inserting a suppository to avoid any infections.

Suppository Side Effects

Side effects aren’t uncommon after using suppositories. It is important to report any injuries or illnesses to your doctor. They might include:

  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Rectal irritation (burning or itching)
  • Tiredness

Precautions when using Suppositories

There are certain circumstances where a suppository should not been used. If you think you might be suffering from any of these conditions, you should first consult your doctor before considering and using a suppository.

  • Intestinal blockage
  • Appendicitis
  • Attacks of a bowel disease (Diverticulitis, Colitis)
  • Anal fissures or rectal tears
  • Allergic reactions to medicines
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or nursing

Rectal suppositories contain stimulant laxatives which may be used temporarily to relieve symptoms associated with constipation, but they shouldn’t be used long term. Repeated frequent use of suppositories may cause damage.

Inserting anything into a rectum comes with risks. To minimize the risk of getting any perforation, fissure, or tear, when using a suppository, it is important to insert the pointed tip first. You can insert the suppository by running it under warm water or using a small amount of a lubricant.

Long term use of stimulant laxatives may lead to chronic diarrhea that can cause low potassium levels and electrolyte imbalances. Kidney problems often result from these imbalances.

Repeated use of suppositories to treat constipation can actually make the problem worse over time. Suppositories only temporarily strengthen the colon walls, but they don’t strengthen them permanently.

Long term use of suppositories can actually weaken the colon muscle. When those muscles are weakened, they don’t have the peristaltic action needed to move feces through the colon.

You shouldn’t use suppositories for more than five consecutive days. If you’re not finding relief from your constipation or if your symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

Suppositories for Constipation Final Thoughts

Suppositories are a good way to get temporary relief of constipation. However, they should never be used as a substitute for regular exercise, drinking plenty of fluids, eating fiber rich foods, and taking a probiotic supplement.

If you want real long-term relief from constipation, and wish to live life full of energy and health, it’s up you to tweak your lifestyle so that you can achieve success.

Check out these other articles to learn more: 

Suppositories for Constipation FAQs

Which suppository is best for constipation?

Fleet Liquid Glycerin Suppositories are the best option for constipation. These are small plastic tubes containing glycerin liquid that you insert into the rectum. They work by absorbing fluid from the stool and pushing it out of the body. Since it’s already in liquid form, you don’t need to wait for it to melt. 

Do suppositories work for severe constipation?

Yes, suppositories will work for severe constipation. Using a liquid glycerin suppository is a good option for it to act quickly. 

How long after using a suppository can I poop?

You can poop immediately after using a suppository. Suppositories usually take effect within 30 minutes. However, if you experience any side effects such as cramps, wait until they pass before pooping. Be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. 

Is a suppository better than a laxative?

Both are effective treatments for constipation, but a suppository may not be as convenient. A suppository is a small piece of medication placed into the rectum to treat constipation. Other laxatives are in pill or liquid form to swallow or drink, respectively. Suppositories can work faster to relieve constipation symptoms because they are inserted into the rectum.

How far do you push a suppository?

Doctors usually insert the suppository about an inch into the rectum. It’s easiest to insert the suppository when you’re lying down on your side. Keep one leg slightly bent and bring the other leg up to your chest. Slowly push the suppository’s pointed end in first. Continue lying down for 15-30, so it doesn’t come out and can take effect. 

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Sheila Jennings

    Sheila Jennings is a 4th-year medical student and also freelances as a content writer on gut health, nutrition, and food. She lives with IBS and has learned how to keep her symptoms at bay through a healthy diet and exercise. She wants to educate others on what they can do to take back control of their gut health and live like they used to.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.