The Best Over-the-Counter Bowel Cleansers

Written by charlie bradley
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The Best Over-the-Counter Bowel Cleansers
Colon cleansing has many medical benefits. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Bowel cleansers remove fecal matter from the colon and rectum. They also relieve constipation and cleanse the colon before medical examinations including colonoscopies. While some methods for bowel cleansing are more invasive than others because of the method of administration, others require more time to complete and cause unpleasant side effects.

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Fleet Enema

Fleet enemas deliver liquid sodium phosphate solution into the rectum from a disposable squeeze bottle to draw water from the body into the rectum to soften hardened fecal matter. They're an invasive rectal method for relieving constipation. Fleet enemas are available in both adult and children's size bottles. Use one Fleet enema bottle and retain the solution for two to five minutes before moving to the toilet to release the contents of the bowel.


Suppositories may be made from the lubricant laxative glycerine or the stimulant laxative bisacodyl. They cleanse the bowel by providing lubrication and stimulation to soften hardened fecal matter and stimulate colon muscles to remove it. Insert one suppository into the rectum. Glycerine suppositories produce bowel movements within 15 minutes to an hour while bisacodyl suppositories produce between 15 and 45 minutes.

Epsom salts

Mix one tablespoon of Epsom salts in one cup of warm water. Drink the entire solution to relieve moderate constipation, fecal impaction or clean the bowel before medical examinations. Epsom salts draw water from other parts of the body to soften and even liquefy hardened fecal matter. They have a bitter taste, which can be offset by adding a pinch of citrus-flavoured soda such as Sprite to the mixture. One eight-ounce glass produces an extremely runny bowel movement within half an hour to eight hours. Epsom salts may cause dehydration, so you should drink one glass of tap water before drinking the Epsom salts mixture.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate cleanses the bowel before diagnostic testing and relieves constipation. Much like Epson salts, it draws water from other portions of the body to soften and pass hardened fecal matter within eight hours. Plan to stay near a toilet for the entire day you use magnesium citrate because it may create a sudden onset of urgency to move the bowels. Drink one glass of tap water before drinking the entire bottle of magnesium citrate to avoid dehydration.

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