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.
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.
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.
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.
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.