Americans’ excessive use of laxatives is causing a shortage of these products in stores. This shortage, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is the result of various factors. The aging population, reduced fiber intake among Americans, unhealthy eating habits developed during the pandemic, and increased travel and hybrid work schedules are all contributing to the difficulty Americans face in maintaining regular bowel movements. This high demand for laxatives has led to a rapid depletion of products like Miralax and Glycolax, while fiber supplements are experiencing significant growth. Dr. George Pavlou of Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey comments on the severity of this issue, stating, “It’s astonishing to think that our collective bowel dysfunction problems have reached a point where we are actually running out of stool softeners,” as reported in the Journal.
A new consumer group has emerged, consisting of younger buyers who are increasingly dependent on laxatives. To cater to this shift, companies are introducing gummy products targeting this demographic. Younger generations are also breaking the taboo surrounding discussions about bowel health, influenced by the viral #GutTok movement. However, healthcare providers are concerned as they observe the overuse of laxatives and supplements in addressing bowel issues. Misinformation about gut health on social media is widespread, along with the misconception that laxatives facilitate weight loss. Dr. Jenna DiLossi, an eating disorder specialist, reveals a recent rise in the abuse of laxatives among teenagers. She explains, “When individuals have excessive bowel movements and feel completely empty inside, it becomes linked to thinness and health,” according to the Journal.
Doctors emphasize the importance of balanced diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as the initial step towards maintaining a healthy gut. Relying on laxatives often indicates a preference for quick fixes, as illustrated by examples posted on social media, as reported by the New York Post. However, doctors caution that consuming fiber alone will not bring about immediate changes. “Many individuals take it for constipation and expect immediate results,” says Dr. Wendi LeBrett, a gastroenterologist, as stated in Insider. She also notes that when working from home, individuals tend to be less physically active, which can cause or exacerbate constipation. (Side note: Refrain from lacing cookies with laxatives if you’re frustrated with someone.)
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