Don’t be surprised if you see a shortage of laxatives at the drugstore or supermarket. The laxative hype train has become popular for its supposed gut health benefits as advertised on TikTok.
Videos with the #GutTok have garnered over one billion views on TikTok. Many of the videos show users taking advantage of laxatives to help with constipation and in some cases, to shred those extra pounds.
A recent Wall Street Journal article found that searches for laxative pills on Amazon have tripled in the past year. Doctors who spoke to the news outlet say poor eating habits and less exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to cases of bowel dysfunction.
There has been an increase in the demand among Gen-Z and millennial populations for the laxative polyethylene glycol 3350, better known by its name brands — Miralax and Glycolax. In 2008, the U.S. Food And Drug Administration revealed eight batches of Miralax contained small amounts of ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG). Both of these ingredients are found in antifreeze.
A video posted by @coffeewpaigemorgan shows the TikTok barista making a cup of coffee with added laxatives to relieve a week-long bout of constipation. Many users are mixing laxatives with different beverages such as coffee, sports drinks, or tea to help it go down with a better taste.
Different types of oral laxatives include osmotics, bulk formers, stool softeners, and stimulants. Osmotics allow the colon to draw water to pass a stool more easily, bulk formers absorb water to create a soft yet sturdy stool for a gentle release, and stool softeners add moisture to a stool in order to soften it for release with little strain.
Over-the-counter laxatives can help relieve and prevent constipation, but making laxatives a long-term fix is unsafe. Excessive use of certain laxatives may lead to dependency and poor bowel function, according to Mayo Clinic. Laxatives have also been linked to a higher risk of dementia
Some laxative side effects may include:
- Severe abdominal cramps or pain
- Excessive diarrhea
- Bloody stools or rectal bleeding
- Tiredness or weakness
Before taking laxatives to relieve constipation, there are lifestyle habits that can be adopted to make going to the restroom easier. Consuming fiber-rich foods like whole-grain breads, fresh fruit, or vegetables can help you achieve the 25 to 31 grams of fiber needed daily. Also, consistent exercise and drinking eight to 10 glasses (eight ounces) of water or non-caffeinated beverages can help relieve constipation.
Laxatives and weight loss
Some are also finding laxatives to be a budget substitute for Ozempic, which has gained attention on TikTok for quick weight loss. One TikTok user, @auntiecurt, admits to abusing laxatives multiple times a day to lose weight but is now relieved she is no longer addicted. In the comments of the post, one user admits to using 28 doses of laxatives per day to assist in weight loss.
The CDC’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Also, protein from lean meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, and nuts is proffered over meats that contain more fat content. The CDC advises a diet that is low in added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.
As for exercise, the U.S. Surgeon General says 30 minutes of activity five days a week will suffice for adults. If you are new to exercise, remember to start small with brisk walking or a light jog to acclimate to physical activity.
Weight loss can be difficult, so remember to be patient for results. Keeping a positive mindset and celebrating little victories can go a long way in one’s weight-loss journey. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in one day.