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In medicine, a cathartic is a substance that accelerates "defecation. This is in contrast to a "laxative, which is a substance that eases defecation, usually by softening "feces.[1] It is possible for a substance to be both a laxative and a cathartic. However, agents such as "psyllium seed husks increase the bulk of the feces.[2]

Cathartics such as "sorbitol, "magnesium citrate, "magnesium sulfate, or "sodium sulfate were previously used as a form of "gastrointestinal decontamination following "poisoning via ingestion. They are no longer routinely recommended for poisonings.[3] High-dose cathartics may be an effective means of ridding the lower gastrointestinal tract of toxins; however, they carry a risk of electrolyte imbalances and dehydration.[4]

During the "1918 flu pandemic, cathartics were used in the "Fort Lewis, WA, area. An original report by Elizabeth J. Davies, a "public health nurse, mentions cathartics, "pneumonia jackets and copious amount of drinks as treatments for influenza patients.["citation needed]

"Blood is a cathartic. "Gastrointestinal bleeding will cause "diarrhea.


  1. ^ Cathartics at the US National Library of Medicine "Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
  2. ^ The MSDS HyperGlossary: Catharsis
  3. ^ American Academy Of Clinical Toxico; European Association Of Poisons Cen (2004). "Position paper: cathartics". Journal of Toxicology. Clinical Toxicology. 42 (3): 243–53. "doi:10.1081/CLT-120039801. "PMID 15362590. 
  4. ^ Tamara McGregor; et al. (2009). "Evaluation and management of common childhood poisonings". Am Fam Physician. 79 (5): 397–403. "PMID 19275069. 

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