Q. My mom has been addicted to laxatives for over 30 years. Last year she had to be operated on because her anus had constricted to the point where not even a pencil would have passed. She was one step away from a blockage.

Four months later she had to go back for the very same problem due to lack of post-operative instructions. The only advice she was given this time is to take Metamucil three times daily.

Now she complains that she has no bowel movements at all. I am so worried. What should she do? I tell her to be patient but she feels very uncomfortable not being able to ‘go’ daily.

A. Chronic laxative use can impair the ability of the digestive tract to function normally. The dependence on chemical stimulants often leads to a vicious cycle of constipation. It will take time along with plenty of fluid and fiber for your mother’s bowel to recover its normal activity.

There are some simple approaches in addition to fluid and Metamucil that may be helpful. Boiling two tablespoons of flaxseed in three quarts of water and consuming two ounces of the liquid daily is one. Chewing sugarless gum is another. A magnesium supplement of 300 to 500 mg per day can be helpful, so long as her kidneys are healthy.

We have also heard from many people that Power Pudding (applesauce, wheat bran and prune juice) can be useful. We have a recipe for this and many other suggestions in the Guide to Constipation we are sending you.

Join Over 55,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. adele
    OR
    Reply

    My dr. keeps telling me that taking a capful of MiraLax is fine. I have very skinny bowel movements. I have dealt with constipation issues all my life and have tried many remedies including vast amounts of Metamucil, nothing has worked besides senna.

  2. MK
    Reply

    Wow, this is huge. I had been dependent on laxatives specifically dolculax for almost 20 years. I started with 2 tabs every night before bed then 3 tabs because my body seemed to have grown an immunity to it. I too used this for weight control despite numerous advice that it was not decreasing weight but simply water. Anyhow, It has been 3 years now since I had decided to throw it in as due to a nursing programme realised just how much damage I was actually creating. Today I am still struggling to go to the toilet regularly, constipated all the time and bleed as I pass stools which has been almost a year now. I have been to the doctors who tell me that it is only haemarrhoids as I was extremely scared I had obtained bowel cancer, still scared of this and now researching all I can to make sense of my symptoms.
    In the first year of giving up the dolculax, I didnt gain any weight although could not pass anything bigger than a peanut, Ive tried metamucil, Konsyl D, movicol, Aloe, prune juice, you name it, had a horrible time. I was always physically fit so I suppose that has helped in some way along with plenty of fluids. I still struggle and take a jug of warm water with me into the toilet (unhygienic) but works wonderfully for me. Such a horrible thing we have done to our bodies but again I have managed 3 years and no longer pushing peanuts :) may take longer but can see recovery just need more perseverance I suppose, and to do away with the myth that laxatives reduce weight. Good luck everyone

  3. LC
    Reply

    How much of this juice mixture did you drink?

  4. rae
    Reply

    I am 50 years old. I have chronic IBS-C. I will not say I have been abusing laxatives since age 18 because my body left me with no choice. What is worse, your body never eliminating feces and toxins or be laxative dependent. Do we really have a choice? Really, who in their right mind WANTS to abuse this horrible medication. I have to take 5 docalx and miralax 2 to 3 times a week.
    On top of my IBS the pain, nausea and outright deliberating state it leaves me in, it is all I can do just to try and keep functioning on a level that will allow me to still say I have a life left. I do not understand anyone that says they take laxatives to lose weight. You cannot lose weight this way, its only water and will come right back. I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind taking such a sickening drug for any other reason than because one must eliminate their waste.
    I know what abusing a drug is. I am a recovered addict. People with chronic constipation, that have tried every thing out there to fix it to no avail, are not abusing laxatives, they have no choice.

  5. MR
    Reply

    I am currently addicted to laxatives and want to stop. My husband and I want to get pregnant in the next couple of years and I know I have to stop. I take 10-15 biscoydl tablets (5mg each) every day and am nervous to quit because I’ve taken them for 7 years now. I have hope that I can have a bowel movement on my own but don’t know for sure.
    Most people I see go cold turkey, but should I try to decrease my intake each week instead? Is this easier? I was thinking of starting with just 7 pills per day for the first week, then 6 pills per day for second week, and so on until I take none. I already eat lots of fruits and veggies but are there any foods to avoid and anything else I can do to help? Any advice is very much appreciated.

  6. lw
    Reply

    try fasting every third day for 24 hours at a time. just drink water or juice if you need to during that time. The other two days. Make sure you’re not over eating. Load up on a variety of fruit and veggies. A handful of beans a day would help a lot. You may feel a little weak but your body needs a break and time to recoup. plus you wont be as bloated. Less food, less poop build up.

  7. stit60
    Reply

    I just “faced my fears” last week and had a colonoscopy done. My GI doctor said I had some slight damage from laxative dependence but no cancer and nothing that couldn’t be repaired by retraining my bowel. I’m 50 and have been suffering from IBS-C and worsening laxative dependency for the past 6 years. I got to the point where I couldn’t have a bowel movement without taking 1 or 2 cascara capsules every other day.
    Once a week, I would give myself an enema to give my body a “rest” from the cascara. I also alternated with Milk of Mag sometimes. I had tried everything from Zelnorm (which was taken off the market) to Mirilax which worked at first but then quit working. My medicine cabinet was FULL of various laxatives, fiber powders etc. I think about how unkind I was to my body and it scares me to think about it.
    This week, I cleaned all the laxatives out my med cabinet and now, there are only 2 meds in there: Citrucel which I drink in 8 oz. of water 3 x daily, and Amitiza which I take twice daily as prescribed by my GI doctor. I’ve been on this regimen only 3 days and so far, I have been having a BM every morning. I’m feeling much better. Laxative abuse is SERIOUS. I would advise anyone suffering from this condition to see their doctor or GI specialist ASAP. Don’t keep taking laxatives and hoping you’re okay. Things will only get worse. Take it from someone who is recovering from laxative dependence and is also a nurse.

  8. Y
    Reply

    Miralax has dangers as well.
    It works better, but can be addictive.
    I am addicted to it for example.

  9. am
    Reply

    I have also been taking 2 laxatives a day and a ultra strength gas x for past 2 years.. I have had a constipation problem for many years and have tried a lot of prescribed meds but none seem to work.. I’ve been bloated to the point of not being able to breath and many er visits… I drink lots of water and cut out all breads and starches.. what else to do?

  10. De
    Reply

    I am Laxative dependent off and on since my teen years. I am in my 40’s I stopped using laxatives in my late 20’s after finding my self on the bathroom floor in so much pain. I got scared and stopped using laxatives everyday, only when I needed them with a stool softener. I have had so much problems with pain in my abdomen that I am now dependent on laxatives to go nothing works I’ve tried miralax and stool softeners even olive oil, metamucil, nothing works I can’t pass anything bigger than a pencil and when I don’t take a laxative I get sick.
    I have to have diarrhea every day or I get so inflamed and in pain. I don’t know what to do. now I have been getting weak with constant pain on left side. The doctors just say it’s IBS but I know this is serious. HELP!

  11. Diana
    Reply

    I have multiple sclerosis and take medications that cause constipation. Multiple sclerosis itself can cause your body to not get the urges to eliminate. I take lactulose, which does soften the stool as well as 2 stool softeners a day. Because of the MS, my body does not always get the urge to eliminate. If I take 3 laxatives every 5 days or so, I have a bowel movement within a few hours. Does anyone have any other suggestions and is taking a laxative this infrequently cause problems? I would appreciate any help. Thanks.

  12. SB
    Reply

    I know what you mean. I take about 6 maximum strength laxatives a day and exercise a lot. I’m 30 couple years old and have been doing it for years. I started with vomiting in my late teens and found this a lot easier and more discrete. I have 3 kids which I love dearly and hope this will not cause to many complications for me in the future. I want to find another way. I’m 5’10”, and if I hit 135lbs I feel terrible.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: PLEASE GET HELP. THIS TYPE OF LAXATIVE ABUSE CAN LEAD TO MINERAL LOSS AND DEGRADE YOUR BODY’S ABILITY TO ELIMINATE NATURALLY. IT IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE WEIGHT CONTROL STRATEGY.

  13. BW
    Reply

    Hello Carly, wow, what same stories we have. I don’t know that I have any useful advice for you, as I am in the same position as you. I have been abusing laxatives for 16 years, I take about 100 correctol a day. My body is very dependent, I stopped about 2 months ago and I am luck if I go to the bathroom every 2 to 3 weeks.I used them for weight control, and now after I am off them I still feel fat because my stomach gets so tight and bloated that I can’t move. It’s very painful! Does anyone have any advice?

  14. Carly
    Reply

    I am highly addicted to laxatives, I will ingest about thirty five at a time once a week or more. I have been addicted for four years and cant seem to quit because no matter what I eat, or how much miralax/aloe life/fiber supplements with tons of water I cant seem to go and my stomach bloats out larger and larger until I cant bend over. I try to quit and am scared of what I am doing to my body but I can barely move because of the constipation that happens. Does this stop? Can someone please give me some much needed advice??
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: YOU MAY NEED HELP TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR OR WITH A GASTROENTEROLOGIST TO GET A PLAN IN PLACE TO OVERCOME YOUR LAXATIVE HABIT.

  15. Samantha
    Reply

    I am laxative dependent. I take 12 correctol laxatives at a time about twice per week at night time to get a BM by the morning time. I have been doing this for almost 20 years, I started off by taking 2 every now and then. I want to have another baby and know I cannot take laxatives while pregnant. I want to quit, but it’s hard for me when 5 days go by and i still can’t go after drinking prune juice and fiber supplements. My system needs something powerful because that’s what it’s used to – please advise.

  16. Coach
    Reply

    Per the constipation problem in the Sumter Item 31 May. Once my stool turned to almost like concrete due to a drug given to me after an operation. I bought all the “softners, etc” nothing worked. So I drank 50% prune juice and 50% apple juice and within 24 hours (or less) I was clear!
    I can only hope it will work for some others too, Plus it is so inexpensive compared to all the other drugstore items which did not work and cost me too much money.

  17. cll
    Reply

    I used laxatives for 30 years. After having colon surgery recently a nurse worked with me encouraging me through the period it takes to get your colon working again.
    Please realize it can work but you have to stick with it for at LEAST 6 weeks to 2 months. I do still take 2 stool softeners a day which they approved reluctantly. You must drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, that’s primary, if you take a fiber supplement, and for me the fiber was the key to my recovery. I had tried them once before but immediately quit when they just balled up in my stomach because I wasn’t drinking enough water.
    I have found a particularly good product called Colon Care Formula by Yerba Prima which works pretty good for me, and it has psyllium husks in it which I think Metamucil is basically. Then I have started eating as many fruits and vegetables as I can which I did not previously eat.
    Occasionally, I will have to take a senna tablet when I’ve overeaten very rich food or fatty beef, but for the most part I can testify that it does eventually happen if you stick to it.

  18. CR
    Reply

    I have found that taking one capsule of aloe vera gel along with Metamucil everyday helps with my constipation.

  19. Melinda
    Reply

    Please recommend Miralax to this patient. It is what the doctors give their patients when they are suffering from constipation. IT is safe.
    Also I use 1000 mg of magnesium supplement and prunes, 7 a day cooked and they do work. I have an enlongated colon and have to use something to help me go. After miralax regularizes my bowels I only use the prunes and mag. supplement. You can regulate how much.

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.