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Laxative Addiction Leads to Lasting Problems

Laxative Addiction Leads to Lasting Problems
Toilet constipation

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.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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