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Is Mineral Oil Safe To Use To Soften My Stools?

Posting Date: 08/01/2001

Q. When I go to the bathroom I have problems with hard stools. Sometimes there's blood when I wipe. And sometimes I have to strain so hard I feel like the blood vessels in my neck will pop.

My grandson, who is seven, has the same problem and my daughter was told to give him mineral oil. When I had a sigmoidoscopy done, I was told not to take mineral oil since it prevents the absorption of vitamins. Should my daughter stop giving her son mineral oil?

I drink water, eat fruit and whole wheat bread and try to get enough fiber. After I started using mineral oil it made going to the bathroom so much easier. What else can I do? Without mineral oil it really hurts.

A. Mineral oil is a mistake. It prevents the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) which are essential for good health. Stool softeners such as docusate would be safer.

Fiber (bran, psyllium, polycarbophil or methylcellulose) can also be effective. So can the occasional use of sugar free gum. It attracts water to the lower intestine, making stools softer. Too much, however, can cause diarrhea.

Take a look at our Guides to Drug and Nutrient Interactions and Constipation with our 10 tips to combat constipation.