Finding a gluten-free laxative isn't hard. However, you will still need to employ many of the same precautionary methods you use when combing the food aisles. Steering clear of mainstream brands that boast confusing ingredient labels and aren't marked "gluten-free" is an initial strategy. Still, not all laxatives are alike and the reason behind your need for a laxative will be every bit as important when it comes to determining what type of laxative you should buy.
Types of Gluten-Free Laxatives
Commercial brand laxatives, the sort that are sold in drugstores, do not all follow the same mechanism when it comes to relieving constipation. Products such as Metamucil are considered to be laxatives as well as supplementary fibers, whereas Senokot tablets are of the stimulant variety. Osmotic laxatives such as magnesium citrate work to increase the amount of water in your colon, thus producing bowel action. In a way, these laxatives are almost like an internal enema. Regardless, the importance in recognizing such differences lies in the administration of safe laxatives. Some laxatives are safe for regular usage whereas others should only be used rarely as they can be damaging over time.
Bulk fiber laxatives such as flax seeds, rice bran, and psyllium husks contain high amounts of insoluble fiber. These laxatives absorb water in the colon and form large masses that push down through the intestines, into the colon, until they are eliminated. An important thing to remember about bulk fiber laxatives is that they are essentially a food product. Commercial brand bulk fiber agents often add chemicals, colorings, and other additives in order to make these relatively tasteless products more palatable. However, for individuals attempting to avoid gluten and other potentially dangerous chemicals, it is best to buy your flax seed, rice bran, or psyllium husks in their whole form. They can typically be found at large health food markets.
Another important aspect regarding the bulk fiber laxative is that these products are generally safe to take long term; after all, they are predominantly fiber. Flax seeds may be of particular use to individuals with celiac disease because these seeds are high in anti-carcinogenic lignans and essential fatty acids, both of which are healing to the intestines. Since many celiacs have endured grievous intestinal damage, flax seed may be the most beneficial of the bulking fiber laxatives.
Do note, however, that bulk fiber laxatives may not work for everyone. In fact, in some cases they can constipate you further and more severely. This is particularly true of individuals who consume a very dry diet. Since bulk fibers absorb water in the intestinal tract, they can further dehydrate an individual while forming a large immovable mass. If you take a bulk fiber laxative, consume lots of fresh raw fruit and drink ample water to move the fiber along.
Osmotic laxatives such as Epsom salts and magnesium citrate formulations are typically gluten-free. However, they are not safe on a regular basis and continued use will lead to a dehydrated bowel. These formulations can be useful in the event that you are not eligible for bulking fibers. Epsom salts are the best bet for a safe gluten-free formulation as they can be purchased in an unadulterated form from drugstores and health food markets.
Laxatives are one of the most commonly purchased items in America and unfortunately many individuals develop a dependency on stimulant laxatives, which is why these items should be consumed solely as directed: for occasional relief of constipation. Stimulant laxatives often employ senna-derived ingredients such as the type you will find in the popular Senokot formula. If you are looking for a guaranteed gluten-free laxative you can head to your local health food market and purchase the "Smooth Move" tea which comes in an original and chocolate formulation. These teas are guaranteed to be gluten-free and are also free of the chemicals and additives found in drugstore stimulant laxatives. Other stimulant herbs that remain gluten-free include Rhubarb root and Cascara Sagrada. These can be found, again, in your local health food store or in any place that sells herbs. Read packaging instructions carefully so as to ensure proper dosage. Stimulant laxatives can cause cramping and damage to the intestinal lining, a real concern for celiacs.
Things to Consider
Many people starting out on a gluten-free diet end up consuming large amounts of gluten-free grains in an effort to compensate for their favorite wheat-containing foods. A diet of gluten-free pizza, gluten-free pasta, and processed gluten-free foods will likely result in constipation. Relying heavily on fresh fruits and vegetables alongside foods like nuts and seeds will help to reduce your chances of constipation enabling you to bypass laxatives altogether.