Which stool softeners are gluten-free?

Stool softeners are medications that are used to treat constipation by making stools softer and easier to pass. Many people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease need to ensure the medications they take are gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye that causes inflammation and damage to the small intestines in people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. People with these conditions need to follow a strict gluten-free diet and avoid any products containing gluten. This includes oral medications like stool softeners. Thankfully, most common over-the-counter stool softeners are gluten-free. This article will provide an overview of common stool softeners that are considered gluten-free and safe for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Stool Softeners vs. Laxatives

Before diving into which stool softeners are gluten-free, it’s important to understand the difference between stool softeners and laxatives. While both types of medications can help treat constipation, they work in different ways:

– Stool softeners – These medications work by drawing water into the stool from the body, which softens the stool and makes it easier to pass. Examples include docusate and polyethylene glycol.

– Laxatives – These stimulate the muscles of the intestines to promote a bowel movement. Types include stimulant laxatives (bisacodyl, senna), osmotic laxatives (magnesium hydroxide, milk of magnesia), and lubricants (mineral oil).

While both stool softeners and laxatives can provide constipation relief, stool softeners are often recommended as a first-line treatment because they are gentler on the gastrointestinal system. Laxatives can cause some cramping or diarrhea.

Are Stool Softeners Gluten-Free?

The majority of common over-the-counter stool softeners are naturally gluten-free. This includes:

– Docusate sodium (Colace, Surfak)
– Docusate calcium (Surfak)
– Polyethylene glycol 3350 (MiraLax)
– Mineral oil
– Sodium phosphate

These active ingredients do not contain any gluten. The inactive ingredients used in pill or capsule form may contain gluten, however this is uncommon. Always check the label to confirm the product is gluten-free.

Some key gluten-free brands of stool softeners include:

Brand Active Ingredient(s)
Colace Docusate sodium
DulcoEase Docusate sodium
GoodSense Docusate sodium, mineral oil
CVS Health Docusate sodium, mineral oil
Surfak Docusate sodium, docusate calcium
Magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) Magnesium hydroxide
MiraLax Polyethylene glycol 3350
Dulcolax Stool Softener Docusate sodium

As you can see, most major brands use gluten-free active ingredients like docusate sodium, docusate calcium, magnesium hydroxide or polyethylene glycol. Always double check the label and look for a “gluten-free” claim to be 100% sure.

Laxatives That Are Not Gluten-Free

While most stool softeners are naturally gluten-free, many laxatives do contain gluten. Examples include:

– Bisacodyl (Dulcolax, Correctol, Ex-Lax)
– Senna (Senokot, Ex-Lax, Fletcher’s Castoria)
– Psyllium husk (Metamucil, Konsyl)

These laxatives may contain wheat starch, barley malt, or other gluten sources. It’s important to read labels carefully and avoid these if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Some laxatives that are gluten-free include magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia), polyethylene glycol (MiraLax), mineral oil, and sodium phosphate enemas or suppositories. Always check the label to confirm gluten-free status.

Are Generic or Store Brand Stool Softeners Gluten-Free?

Generic and store brand versions of common stool softeners like docusate sodium, docusate calcium, and mineral oil are typically gluten-free. However, it’s still important to check the label and ingredient list.

The key things to look for are:

– Active ingredients – Most generics use the same gluten-free active ingredients like docusate or polyethylene glycol.

– Inactive ingredients – While uncommon, these could contain gluten. Check for ingredients like wheat starch.

– “Gluten-free” label claim – Ideally the product will state it’s gluten-free right on the label. This ensures thorough testing has been done.

– Manufacturer website – Check the manufacturer’s website for confirmation the product is gluten-free. Many list this info online.

As long as you verify one of the above, generic or store brand stool softeners are generally safe. Common gluten-free options include:

– Walgreens Stool Softener (docusate sodium)
– CVS Health Stool Softener (docusate sodium)
– Equate Stool Softener (docusate sodium)
– Up & Up Stool Softener (docusate sodium)
– GoodSense Stool Softener (docusate sodium)

Tips for Identifying Gluten in Medications

To identify if a medication contains gluten, here are some tips:

– Carefully read the label and ingredient list. Watch for mentions of wheat, barley, rye, starch or malt.

– Check if the product has a “gluten-free” claim on the label or packaging. This indicates thorough testing.

– Look up the manufacturer online to see if they have gluten-free drug lists. Many supplement and pharmaceutical companies provide this info.

– Call the manufacturer directly if you can’t find gluten information online or on the label. They should be able to verify for you.

– Ask your pharmacist – they have comprehensive drug databases and manufacturer information and can often help identify gluten-free options.

– Consider buying from a pharmacy that specializes in gluten-free medications. Several national pharmacies verify all products as gluten-free.

Being extra careful about medications is important, as drug binders and fillers can sometimes contain hidden sources of gluten. By reading labels vigilantly and contacting manufacturers when in doubt, you can ensure the products you take are gluten-free.

What About Probiotics?

Probiotics are nutritional supplements that contain live “good” bacteria to help promote digestive health. They need to be approached with the same caution as medications when it comes to gluten content.

Many probiotic capsules use cornstarch as a filler or binding agent. Cornstarch is sometimes contaminated with gluten during processing. Look for brands that test their products to ensure no cross-contamination.

Some gluten-free probiotic options include:

– Align Probiotic (tested gluten-free)
– Culturelle Probiotics (gluten-free)
– Renew Life Probiotics (tested with R5 ELISA assay)
– Hyperbiotics PRO-15 (independently tested)

As with stool softeners, double check the label for any mention of gluten-containing ingredients. Reach out to the manufacturer directly if you have any concerns. Many brands now label products “gluten-free” after thorough testing.

Are Suppositories and Enemas Safe?

Rectal suppositories and enemas are alternative options for treating constipation that avoid ingestion. These rectal formulations deliver the active ingredients directly to the colon to induce a bowel movement.

Some common gluten-free formulations include:

– Docusate sodium enemas (e.g. Fleet enema)
– Glycerin suppositories (e.g. Dulcolax)
– Mineral oil enemas (e.g. Betty Crocker)
– Sodium phosphate enemas (e.g. Fleet)

The ingredients in rectal preparations are less likely to contain gluten. However, it’s still advisable to check the label and contact the manufacturer to verify gluten-free status if the ingredients raise any doubt.

Suppositories and enemas can be a good approach to treating constipation while avoiding potential gluten exposure from oral medications. Just take care to choose verified gluten-free formulations.

Non-Medication Remedies

In addition to stool softeners and laxatives, there are some non-medication approaches to relieving constipation that are naturally gluten-free:

– Drink plenty of fluids – Staying hydrated is key, opt for water, herbal tea or warm liquids.

– Eat more fiber – Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds boost fiber intake.

– Exercise regularly – Physical activity stimulates the bowels and aids digestion.

– Consider probiotic supplements – Probiotics promote healthy gut bacteria. Choose gluten-free brands.

– Practice relaxation techniques – Stress can aggravate constipation, relaxation helps bowel function.

– Establish a bathroom routine – Going at the same time each day trains the body.

– Use Epsom salt baths – May help hydrate the colon and stimulate bowel movements.

– Try abdominal massage – Gentle massage in a clockwise motion can spur digestion.

– Discuss supplements with your doctor – Magnesium, vitamin C and omega-3s may provide relief.

These approaches focus on hydration, diet, gut health and lifestyle habits to relieve constipation in a natural, gluten-free way. They can be used in conjunction with medications.

The Bottom Line

When you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, taking gluten-free medications is an important part of following your treatment plan. The good news is that most common over-the-counter stool softeners are naturally gluten-free. Key ingredients like docusate sodium, mineral oil and polyethylene glycol 3350 do not contain gluten.

Always carefully read labels and check with manufacturers if unsure about an ingredient. Generic and store brands are typically safe as well, as long as you double check the formulations. Avoid laxatives containing wheat, barley or rye. Suppositories and enemas can also be a gluten-free option for treating constipation.

By being vigilant about labels, consulting online drug databases, and calling manufacturers with questions, you can identify gluten-free stool softeners. This ensures you can effectively treat constipation without experiencing adverse reactions or sacrificing your gluten-free diet.

Leave a Comment