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There is an old wive's tale (mostly among parents with constipated babies) that you can temporarily relieve constipation by inserting a small piece of soap into the sufferer's rectum to prompt a bowel movement.

Here is an excerpt of the instructions from an article on healthfully:

Cut the soap into a small piece that is the thickness of the patients' pinkie. [...] slowly insert the soap into the rectum. Keep the soap in there for several minutes so that the body temperature melts the soap [...] As the soap melts, you will start to feel pain in the abdomen area and you will want to go to the bathroom right away.

This is repeated across many other websites, such as these articles on constipation-relief.net, and the Optimal Health Network.

Disclaimer: I do not intend to use this method; this is just something that I've heard over the years.


I've found sources on more trusted websites that indicate soap might be helpful, but they do not explicitly refer to this "treatment" method.

Science Based Medicine's Constipation Myths and Facts says:

Stool softeners are essentially soap, and the theory is that they make the stool easier to pass. Despite their widespread use, there’s no good evidence that docusate sodium or docusate calcium are effective for the treatment of constipation.

And the University of Virginia's Treatment of Chronic Constipation vaguely mentions "soap suds":

Soap suds: contain water with a small amount of soap. The soap is mildly irritating and stimulates the lower intestine to secrete water and salt.


Is the insertion of soap into the rectum an effective means of relieving constipation?

  • 1
    Both your question and the references you quote fail to differentiate between the several different aspects of "constipation". There are several causes, from dehydration to pain relievers to psychological problems, and several different treatments, depending on which symptom is being treated. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 13 '18 at 22:04
  • Why soap specifically? Glycerin suppositories are more commonly used in this way, even though the empirical evidence for them is also rather weak. – Fizz Jan 14 '18 at 12:28
  • And "soap suds" refers to an enema containing (liquid) soap dissolved in water, by the way. I can't quite see any medical professional recommending bits of hard soap because of the risk of cuts. I suppose it's one of those "green" remedies or something like that. – Fizz Jan 14 '18 at 12:44
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    Here's an open label study on SSE (soap suds enema): ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5125440 in fact "the largest of its kind to evaluate SSE as a therapeutic modality in any population". – Fizz Jan 14 '18 at 12:54
  • It's incredibly unlikely there would be any serious medical study with hard soap bits, because of the risk (of cuts/fistulas) I've mentioned. – Fizz Jan 14 '18 at 13:14
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According to Soap Suds Enemas Are Efficacious and Safe for Treating Fecal Impaction in Children With Abdominal Pain Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 63(1), pages 15–18, July 2016:

Five hundred twelve patients (53% girls, median age 7.8 years, range: 8 months-23 years) received SSE [Soap Suds Enema] therapy during a 1-year period. Successful therapy (bowel movement) following SSE occurred in 419 (82%). Adverse events included abdominal pain in 24 (5%) and nausea/vomiting in 18 (4%). No SSE-related serious adverse events were identified. Following SSE, 405 (79%) were subsequently discharged, of which 15 (3.7%) returned to the ED for re-evaluation within 72 hours.

SSE is an efficacious and safe therapeutic option for the acute treatment of childhood fecal impaction in the ED setting

See also Diagnostic approach to constipation impacts pediatric emergency department disposition The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, volume 35, issue 10, October 2017, pages 1490-1493:

SSE [Soap Suds Enema] is the primary therapy used in our pediatric ED for children with significant constipation.

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