Header Image for Golytely vs Miralax

Golytely vs Miralax

Listen to the article instead of reading through it.


Golytely Information

Miralax Information

Comparative Analysis


For patients dealing with constipation or preparing for a colonoscopy, there are certain laxatives that can help in emptying the bowels and easing discomfort. Golytely and Miralax are two such drugs that are commonly prescribed for these conditions. They each work by drawing water into the intestines to stimulate bowel movements, but their effectiveness and administration methods differ slightly.

Golytely is an osmotic-type laxative used primarily as a bowel preparatory agent before surgical procedures like colonoscopies. It works by causing water to be retained with the stool which increases the number of bowel movements you have.

On the other hand, Miralax is also an osmotic-type laxative but it's most often used for treating occasional episodes of constipation rather than as a preparatory agent prior to medical procedures. Like Golytely, it works by holding water in the stool to soften it and increase bowel movements; however, its effects may be milder and slower onset compared to Golytely.

Golytely vs Miralax Side By Side

Brand NameGolytelyMiralax
ContraindicationsShould not be taken with certain medications such as diuretics without consulting a healthcare professional. Not suitable for individuals with certain health conditions without medical advice.Should not be used in individuals with certain health conditions without consulting a healthcare professional. Caution advised when used with medications affecting water and electrolyte balance.
CostAround $40 for a 4-liter jugAbout $25–$30 for a bottle containing 30 doses (17 grams each)
Generic NamePolyethylene Glycol 3350 with electrolytesPolyethylene Glycol 3350
Most Serious Side EffectSevere allergic reaction, dehydration symptoms, electrolyte imbalance, kidney problems, signs of an electrolyte imbalance like confusion and irritability.Allergic reactions, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration signs, unusual changes in mood or behavior, severe stomach pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting.
Severe Drug InteractionsMay exacerbate symptoms of dehydration when taken with diuretics or other medications affecting water and electrolyte balance.Potential for increased dehydration and electrolyte imbalance when used with certain medications without medical supervision.
Typical DoseOne full jug (4 liters), taken orally over a few hours.17 grams (about one heaping tablespoon) mixed into 4-8 ounces of beverage, taken once daily.

What is Golytely?

Polyethylene glycol (the generic name for Golytely) was one of the first major developments in laxatives used to treat constipation or for bowel preparation before surgery or colonoscopy. It has been widely recognized and approved by the FDA since 1980. Golytely works by retaining water in the stool, therefore softening it and increasing its volume, which triggers bowel movement more effectively. It is prescribed for adults who suffer from chronic constipation or those preparing for a medical procedure involving their bowels.

Golytely's mechanism primarily affects osmotic balance without any significant influence on electrolyte levels, hence reducing potential side effects compared to other laxatives that could disrupt these balances. However, Polyethylene glycol 3350 (the active ingredient in Miralax), also an osmotic-type laxative but with a slightly different formulation, tends to be better tolerated due to its tasteless powder form that can easily be mixed with a beverage.

What conditions is Golytely approved to treat?

Golytely is approved for the treatment of different types of bowel preparation:

  • Bowel cleansing prior to colonoscopy
  • Constipation, especially in patients who require a thorough cleanse before a diagnostic procedure or surgery.
  • In certain cases, it can also be used for drug overdoses and poisonings as part of whole-bowel irrigation protocol.

How does Golytely help with these illnesses?

Golytely aids in bowel preparation by increasing the amount of water in the intestinal tract. It achieves this by being an osmotic laxative, meaning it draws water into the intestines from surrounding body tissues to soften stool and stimulate bowel movements. This increase in hydration helps to clear out the bowels more effectively, making it a commonly used medication prior to colonoscopies or other similar procedures.

On the other hand, Miralax uses a similar mechanism but is typically less intense than Golytely as it works slower and doesn't require drinking large volumes of solution. The active ingredient in Miralax is polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG 3350), which also operates as an osmotic laxative.

Both medications are beneficial for patients struggling with constipation or preparing for a medical procedure involving their digestive system but they differ significantly in terms of dosage size, speed of action, and level of intensity.

What is Miralax?

MiraLAX, a brand name for polyethylene glycol 3350, is an osmotic laxative that works by retaining water in the stool to soften it and increase bowel movements. Approved by the FDA in 1999, MiraLAX helps treat occasional constipation by increasing the frequency of bowel movements within 1 to 3 days. Unlike Golytely which contains electrolytes along with a larger volume of liquid intended for colon cleansing before procedures like colonoscopy; MiraLAX does not contain electrolytes and is used more commonly on a day-to-day basis to relieve intermittent bouts of constipation. The side effects profile differs too as MiraLAX typically has less severe side effects than Golytely; most common ones being bloating, gas or mild upset stomach. Its ease of use and lesser intensity make it a favored choice for those dealing with occasional rather than chronic or severe constipation.

What conditions is Miralax approved to treat?

MiraLAX is an over-the-counter drug that's used to treat certain types of constipation or irregular bowel movements. It works by drawing water into the colon, which softens the stool and makes it easier to pass. Specific conditions for which MiraLAX is approved include:

  • Occasional constipation
  • Chronic idiopathic constipation, a persistent condition characterized by infrequent bowel movements, hard and dry stools, straining during defecation, and a feeling of incomplete evacuation.

How does Miralax help with these illnesses?

Miralax is a type of osmotic laxative that works by increasing the amount of water in your intestinal tract to stimulate bowel movements. It's primarily used to provide relief from occasional constipation, but it can also be utilized for bowel preparation before medical procedures such as colonoscopy. Unlike Golytely, which includes electrolytes in its formulation and requires consumption of large volumes for effective colonic cleansing, Miralax can be taken in smaller quantities mixed with any beverage making it more palatable and easier on the system. Its action on pulling water into the intestines not only softens stools but also increases gut motility, thereby alleviating symptoms of constipation. Since it does not significantly affect electrolyte levels or cause drastic shifts in fluid balance, it is often recommended when a patient experiences side effects with other more aggressive bowel prep medications like Golytely or needs mild relief from infrequent bouts of constipation.

How effective are both Golytely and Miralax?

Both polyethylene glycol 3350 (MiraLAX) and polyethylene glycol-electrolyte solution (GoLYTELY) are well-established treatments for constipation. MiraLAX was approved by the FDA in 1999, while GoLYTELY has been available since the early 1980s. These medications act as osmotic laxatives, drawing water into the bowel to soften stools and stimulate bowel movement.

The efficacy of these two drugs was directly compared in a randomized controlled trial that found both equally effective at relieving symptoms of chronic constipation[1]. In this study, there were no significant differences between patients treated with MiraLAX or GoLYTELY on any measure used to evaluate their effectiveness for treating constipation.

Despite their similarities, there are some notable differences between these two medications. For example, a review published in 2015 noted that GoLYTELY is generally preferred over MiraLAX when preparing patients for colonoscopies due to its more comprehensive cleansing abilities[2]. However, it also highlighted that MiraLAX is often better tolerated by patients because it doesn't contain electrolytes and can be mixed with any type of clear liquid – not just water – which many people find makes it easier to consume.

In summary, while both MiraLAX and GoLYTELY have proven efficacy for alleviating symptoms of constipation, they may be prescribed under different circumstances depending on patient preferences and specific needs such as preparation for colonoscopy.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3096213/

[2] https://journals.lww.com/jcge/Abstract/2015/06000/A_Comparison_of_Miralax_Gatorade_to_GoLyteLy_for.14.aspx

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

Find Top Clinical Trials

Choose from over 30,000 active clinical trials.

At what dose is Golytely typically prescribed?

Dosages of Golytely typically consist of one full jug (4 liters), taken orally, over the course of a few hours. This is often used in preparation for colonoscopies or other bowel procedures. On the other hand, Miralax dosages are generally much smaller and can range from 17g to 34g per day depending on individual needs and response to treatment. The dosage can be adjusted based on effectiveness but should not exceed the maximum dose recommended by your healthcare provider or specified on the product label. For children's usage, a doctor must provide guidance as it varies based on age and health conditions.

At what dose is Miralax typically prescribed?

Miralax therapy typically begins with a dosage of 17 grams (about one heaping tablespoon) mixed into 4-8 ounces of beverage, taken once daily. This dose can be adjusted based on the response to treatment. The mix is stirred until the Miralax powder has completely dissolved and then consumed straight away for best results. It's important not to take more than this recommended dose within a 24-hour period unless directed by your healthcare provider. If there is no improvement in bowel movements or if symptoms persist after seven days of use, it may be necessary to reassess the situation with your doctor.

What are the most common side effects for Golytely?

Common side effects of Golytely and Miralax include:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal fullness, bloating, or cramping
  • General weakness and fatigue (from electrolyte imbalance)
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Increased sweating due to dehydration
  • Diarrhea, as the medication works by drawing water into the intestines to stimulate bowel movements
    Please note that these medications should only be used for a short period. If symptoms persist or worsen, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Golytely?

When comparing Golytely to Miralax, it's important to understand that both are laxatives used for bowel preparation before certain medical procedures. However, there could be some potential side effects with each:

  • Severe allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat.
  • Dehydration symptoms: feeling very thirsty or hot, heavy sweating, hot and dry skin
  • Electrolyte imbalance: headache, dizziness, feeling jittery or irritable; weakness or lack of energy; muscle cramps
  • Kidney problems: little or no urination; painful or difficult urination; swelling in the feet and ankles.
  • Signs of an electrolyte imbalance - confusion and irritability.

In rare cases serious side effects can occur including severe stomach pain/abdominal bloating. If any such reactions are experienced while using either Golytely or Miralax you should seek immediate medical attention.

What are the most common side effects for Miralax?

Miralax can cause some side effects, although they usually are not severe. They include:

  • Mild diarrhea or loose stools
  • Bloating, gas, stomach cramps or the feeling of fullness
  • Nausea
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Increased sweating

It should be noted that these symptoms usually resolve on their own as your body adjusts to the medication. However, if any of these side effects worsen or persist for a prolonged period, it's recommended to consult with a healthcare provider immediately.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Miralax?

While Miralax is generally well-tolerated, serious side effects can occur in certain circumstances. These include:

  • Allergic reactions: hives; breathing difficulties; swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Electrolyte imbalance (imbalance in levels of minerals that maintain the body's fluid balance), symptoms may include headache; dizziness; increased thirst; sweating more than usual or hot and dry skin
  • Dehydration signs: feeling very thirsty or hot, being unable to urinate, heavy sweating or experiencing hot and dry skin
  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior such as new or worsening depression
  • Severe stomach pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting

If you experience any of these symptoms while using Miralax it's important that you seek medical attention immediately.

Contraindications for Golytely and Miralax?

Both Golytely and Miralax, like most other laxatives, may exacerbate symptoms of dehydration in some people. If you notice an increase in thirst, dry mouth or skin, fatigue or lightheadedness after using these medications, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Golytely nor Miralax should be taken if you are consuming certain types of medications such as diuretics or water pills without discussing it with your healthcare professional first. These could intensify the dehydrating effect of the laxative causing electrolyte imbalance which can lead to serious health issues. Always inform your physician about all the medications and supplements that you are currently taking; some drugs might require a period to clear from your system before starting on a regimen involving bowel-clearing agents like Golytely and Miralax.

How much do Golytely and Miralax cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of a package of Golytely, which includes a 4-liter jug for mixing and intake, averages around $40. This is typically used as one-time treatment before certain medical procedures (e.g., colonoscopy), thus making cost per day calculations irrelevant.
  • A bottle containing 30 doses (17 grams each) of Miralax costs about $25–$30. If you are taking one dose daily, this works out to roughly $0.80 to $1/day.

Thus, while both medications serve similar purposes in relieving constipation by drawing water into the bowels to promote bowel movements, they differ significantly in their application and pricing structure.

As with other medications generic versions provide more affordable options:

  • Generic Polyethylene Glycol 3350 (the active ingredient in Golytely) comes at approximately the same cost as its branded counterpart — around $40 for the mixable powder form.
  • Similarly priced is generic Polyethylene Glycol 3350 (the active ingredient in Miralax). It costs about $20-$25 for a container with enough powder for 30 doses.

Remember that it's not just about price; effectiveness and your personal health needs should be your primary considerations when choosing between these two treatments.

Popularity of Golytely and Miralax

Polyethylene Glycol 3350, in generic form as well as brand name like Miralax, was estimated to have been prescribed to about 6 million people in the US in 2020. Polyethylene Glycol accounted for around 50% of laxative prescriptions in the US. However, it appears to be the most-common over-the-counter osmotic laxative used for temporary relief of occasional constipation. The use of Polyethylene Glycol has been increasing since its approval by FDA.

Golytely or PEG-3350 with electrolytes is a prescription medication mostly used before colonoscopy procedures to clean the bowel thoroughly. It's hard to estimate how many times Golytely was prescribed due to its specific usage but it plays an essential role in preparation for intestinal diagnostics and surgeries rather than being a regular treatment for constipation like Miralax.


Both Golytely (polyethylene glycol 3350 and electrolytes) and Miralax (polyethylene glycol 3350) are commonly used to treat constipation, particularly before medical procedures such as colonoscopy. They work by drawing water into the bowel, which helps soften stools and stimulate bowel movements.

Golytely is a prescription medication typically used for whole gut irrigation ahead of a procedure like a colonoscopy. It's usually taken in one large dose and works quickly but can be difficult for some patients to tolerate due to its volume.

Miralax, on the other hand, is available over-the-counter and often prescribed for more chronic or persistent constipation issues. It's generally easier to take due to its tasteless powder form that can be mixed with any beverage.

Both medications are considered safe but may cause side effects such as bloating, nausea, cramping or gas. In rare cases serious side effects like allergic reactions could occur so it’s important that patients monitor their symptoms while taking these medications and seek immediate medical attention if they notice anything out of ordinary.

The choice between Golytely and Miralax will largely depend on your individual circumstances - whether you need rapid relief before a surgical procedure or longer-term management of chronic constipation - alongside considerations of cost since Miralax is available without prescription.