stool softener is a laxative that draws water from consumed liquids into stool to make the stool more pliable. The flexible stool passes from the body with less effort. A stool softener can come from the factory or from the farm. Bisacodyl, docusate sodium, and mineral oil are all processed chemicals. Pectin is a stool softener found in some fruits and vegetables.
From the Factory
Bisacodyl is one stool softener on the pharmacy shelf. It is used for constipation and to empty the colon before surgery or colon exams. It comes as a pill, as a suppository, or as an enema. Bisacodyl  generally should not be taken more than once a day or for more than a week without consulting a doctor. Older adults, pregnant women, and nursing women may wish to talk to a doctor before taking bisacodyl. Possible side effects of bisacodyl include stomach cramps, upset stomach, diarrhea, stomach and intestinal irritation, and faintness. The suppository version may possibly cause irritation or burning in the rectum.
Docusate sodium is a salt that is used to soften stool. It has a positively charged sodium ion that bonds to a negatively charged sulfite group in the middle of a long carbon chain. This stool softener is used for occasional constipation. It generally should not be taken for more than 1 week without a doctor’s direction.  Docusate sodium may possibly cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and cramping. Taking liquid docusate sodium by mouth may possibly result in throat irritation. In rare cases, it may lead to rectal bleeding. Pregnant and nursing women may wish to check with a doctor before taking docusate sodium.
Mineral oil is a stool softener that helps with constipation. It should be taken on an empty stomach, because it is believed to interfere with the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. It possibly can decrease the absorption of other medications or supplements that are taken within 2 hours of taking mineral oil. Patients generally should not take mineral oil for more than a week without first discussing it with a doctor. Pregnant women, nursing women, and people who suffer from nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains, rectal bleeding or difficulty swallowing may wish to speak with a doctor before taking mineral oil. The possible side effects of mineral oil may include anal leakage and respiratory problems.
From the Farm
Pectin is a soluble fiber found in pears, carrots, beets, cabbage, bananas, and citrus fruit. It is not broken down by the digestive system. When it reaches the colon it holds onto liquids from the meal, making it a natural stool softener.
Taking a stool softener can make it possible to get regular again. Stool softeners such as bisacodyl, docusate sodium, and mineral oil are synthetic, manufactured compounds. Pectin is a naturally occurring stool softener in several fruits and vegetables. Carefully investigate before picking any specific stool softener.
1. Bisacodyl on PubMed
2. Docusate sodium on PubChem
3. Docusate Sodium Oral on WebMD
4. Mineral Oil on WebMD
5. Sorbitol on PubChem
6. Prescription for Nutritional Healing by Phyllis Balch and James Balch