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Macrogol: effect, application, side effects

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 296 views

The laxative macrogol is used to cleanse the colon before colon exams and to treat constipation. It binds water, which increases the volume of the stool and makes the stool softer. This makes bowel movements easier. In general, laxatives should only be taken after consulting a doctor. Here you can read everything you need to know about macrogol.

This is how macrogol works

Macrogol is an active ingredient from the group of laxatives with water-binding and laxative properties. The increased binding of water in the gastrointestinal tract causes an increase in stool volume, which stimulates intestinal activity (peristalsis), and makes the stool softer.

Laxatives may be necessary when digestion is compromised. A slower intestinal passage can be caused, for example, by poor nutrition, lack of exercise and occasionally by taking certain medications (e.g. strong painkillers from the opioid group).

Certain diseases (such as multiple sclerosis ) can also lead to constipation . In the short term, laxatives can then be used to facilitate defecation.

Macrogol, also known as polyethylene glycol, is a synthetic substance that binds water. If macrogol is taken by mouth (orally), the substance in the intestine binds the water present and prevents it from being absorbed through the intestinal wall into the blood – it therefore remains in the intestinal contents (stool).

The effect of macrogol occurs with a time delay of about 12 to 48 hours.

intake, degradation and excretion

The active substance is not absorbed from the intestine into the blood, but is excreted unchanged with the stool.

When is macrogol used?

Macrogol is a powerful laxative and is used to cleanse the intestines before intestinal examinations and surgical procedures in the gastrointestinal tract. It is also used to treat chronic constipation and problems with passing stool.

Shown (“indicated”) is the short-term use of laxatives, for example in women shortly after childbirth (so that they do not have to strain when having a bowel movement). The same applies to patients who have had an operation on the abdominal wall and therefore have pain when contracting the abdominal muscles.

Long-term use is only recommended in special cases, such as paraplegics and patients who take strong painkillers (opioids). Here, however, combination preparations are advisable that contain salts ( electrolytes ) in addition to macrogol. In this way, an impending lack of electrolytes due to accelerated bowel movements can be prevented to a certain extent.

Regular use of laxatives such as macrogol without a medical examination is strongly discouraged. A long-standing constipation should always be clarified by a doctor in order to rule out possible pathological causes.

This is how macrogol is used

Macrogol is mostly used as a powder to make a solution. The contents of a macrogol sachet are stirred into water and drunk.

For a complete colon cleansing before medical interventions, between three and four liters of macrogol solution must usually be drunk (as directed by the doctor). Significantly smaller amounts are required for a slight laxative effect in the event of temporary constipation.

What side effects does macrogol have?

Often, that is, in one to ten percent of those treated, macrogol causes side effects such as gastrointestinal problems.

Severe diarrhea is possible with an overdose of the laxative.

Electrolytes are lost if laxatives are used over a long period of time without the appropriate addition of electrolytes. This gives the body the impression that the food is passing through the intestines too quickly. As a countermeasure, he throttles the gastrointestinal movement even further. This fatal regulation further promotes the existing constipation. Many patients then take even more laxatives – the vicious circle intensifies.

Always have a constipation with acute symptoms (including pain, nausea, a strong feeling of pressure) clarified by a doctor.

What should be considered when taking macrogol?


Macrogol must not be used in:


There is a possibility that taking macrogol will affect the absorption of other drugs.

age restriction

Depending on the dosage, finished preparations with macrogol are permitted from the age of one year. Elderly patients, patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease and those with cardiac arrhythmias should use macrogol drugs with caution, preferably only under medical supervision.

pregnancy and breast feeding period

So far, there is insufficient data on the use of macrogol during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, since the active ingredient is practically not absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream , experts assume that it can be used throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding when bulking agents such as flaxseed and psyllium are not effective.

Macrogol is one of the laxatives of choice during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

How to get medicines with macrogol

Drugs containing macrogol are available over the counter in pharmacies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

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