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What Is Lactulose Syrup?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Lactulose syrup is a type of sugar that may be used to treat chronic constipation, and is also prescribed to prevent portosystemic encephalopathy, which is a possible complication of advanced liver disease. This product, which is a synthetic sugar, creates a more acidic environment in the patient's intestines. The end result is that the stool is softened and the levels of ammonia in the blood are reduced.

Portosystemic encephalopathy is a condition in which the patient becomes confused, suffers from altered consciousness, and can fall into a coma. It is a result of advanced liver cirrhosis, and if it is not treated, it can be fatal. Doctors may prescribe lactulose syrup to help prevent this condition because it removes ammonia from the blood and transports it into the colon. Excess levels of ammonia can then be excreted out of the body.

Lactulose syrup may be used to prevent complications of liver disease.
Lactulose syrup may be used to prevent complications of liver disease.

This product also works to alleviate constipation because the body does not readily absorb the syrup. Instead, bacteria breaks it down in the intestines, where it turns into lactic acid. This helps attract more water into the intestines, which softens the stool. Patients may find relief of chronic constipation within 48 hours of ingesting this syrup.

Lactulose syrup may be used to relieve chronic constipation.
Lactulose syrup may be used to relieve chronic constipation.

Dosage instructions may vary, but patients will typically be prescribed one dose daily to treat constipation, and three to four doses daily to treat liver cirrhosis. If the patient finds the taste unpleasant, he may mix the syrup with water or fruit juice. He should also consume plenty of water with each dose. A high-fiber diet is recommended to increase the effects of lactulose syrup.

Patients typically find relief of chronic constipation within 48 hours of ingesting lactulose syrup.
Patients typically find relief of chronic constipation within 48 hours of ingesting lactulose syrup.

Before using this medication to treat constipation or prevent complications of liver disease, patients should disclose their other medical conditions. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should discuss the potential risks with their doctors. Lactulose syrup may be contraindicated for use by those who require a low-lactose diet. Diabetics should check their blood sugar often and call their doctors if they experience excessive thirst or urination, or a fruity odor on their breath. These are typical symptoms of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar.

Lactulose syrup may interact negatively with certain diabetes medicines.
Lactulose syrup may interact negatively with certain diabetes medicines.

In addition, if the patient intends to undergo surgery or diagnostic tests on his colon or rectum, he must inform the surgeon that he is using lactulose syrup. Patients should also discuss their other medications and supplements with their doctors or pharmacists. Lactulose syrup may interact with antacids, other laxatives, diabetes medicines and some antibiotics, such as neomycin.

Some side effects may occur, such as bloating, diarrhea, and minor abdominal cramps. Nausea, vomiting, and belching have also been reported. Patients should contact their doctors if they experience faintness, severe diarrhea, or severe weakness, along with severe abdominal pain.

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Discussion Comments

bear78

I suffered from a back injury recently and had to receive many pain relieving injections. Unfortunately, one side effect of the injections is constipation. Although I don't normally have any problems with bowel movements, I developed a severe constipation due to my treatment.

My doctor prescribed me lactulose syrup in addition to glycerin suppositories. The two in combination worked very well and resolved my constipation within the same day. I think that lactulose syrup is a safer alternative to other laxatives.

candyquilt

@burcinc-- Although I am diabetic, I did use lactulose syrup once and it was effective. I did not experience any dramatic change in my blood sugar, but I used a low dose.

As long as you check your blood sugar regularly and adjust your medication or insulin, I think you will be fine. You might want to check with your doctor just in case though.

burcinc

I have diabetes and I realize that lactulose syrup may be problematic for me. However, it was recommended by a friend who uses it for constipation. I'm not sure if I should give it a try or not. Other laxatives have not been working for me.

Logicfest

Is this regarded as a short-term solution to constipation or do people use it long-term in some cases?

There are people out there who swear that a glass or two of prune juice daily is a good long-term solution. That may be worth trying for those who have trouble with constipation -- it's a more "natural" solution if it works.

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    • Lactulose syrup may be used to prevent complications of liver disease.
      By: stockshoppe
      Lactulose syrup may be used to prevent complications of liver disease.
    • Lactulose syrup may be used to relieve chronic constipation.
      By: rob3000
      Lactulose syrup may be used to relieve chronic constipation.
    • Patients typically find relief of chronic constipation within 48 hours of ingesting lactulose syrup.
      By: Africa Studio
      Patients typically find relief of chronic constipation within 48 hours of ingesting lactulose syrup.
    • Lactulose syrup may interact negatively with certain diabetes medicines.
      By: Dmitry Lobanov
      Lactulose syrup may interact negatively with certain diabetes medicines.