- Americans generally do not consume enough fiber, which is necessary for gut health.
- Hybrid work can cause irregular meal times and affect the movement of dishes
- READ MORE: Doctors warn against using popular supplement if cancer risk exists
Miralax, one of the most popular fiber supplements, is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain
The United States is suffering from a shortage of laxatives due to increased demand, and experts say hybrid work and poor diets are to blame.
Demand is starting to outstrip supply for polyethylene glycol 3350, the generic name for laxatives like Miralax and Glycolax.
Part of the blame is an aging population with more digestive problems, plus the fact that most Americans generally don’t eat enough fiber, which makes it easier to pass stool.
Lingering effects of the pandemic could also be at play as people ate less healthily, exercised less and felt more anxious due to lockdowns, all of which contribute to gut dysfunction.
And now, more people are working a hybrid schedule, which leads to irregular meal and bath times.
The #guttok hashtag has over 1.1 billion views on TikTok, while guttok without the hashtag has over 207 million.
Eating stimulates the reflex that causes waste to travel through the intestine, so if workers skip breakfast and lunch, it will restrict bowel movements.
Dr. George Pavlou, who runs Gastroenterology Associates of New Jersey, told the Wall Street Journal: “It’s crazy to think that our collective problems with intestinal dysfunction have gotten so bad that we are literally running out of stool softeners.”
Laxatives are medications that loosen stools and increase bowel movements and are used to treat and prevent constipation. They work by sucking in water or physically stimulating the colon to contract.
Some people also take laxatives like cheap Ozempic to feel thinner, psychologists say.
Searches for laxative pills on Amazon have more than tripled over the past year, analytics company Pattern said.
Meanwhile, the companies that make the fiber supplements Metamucil and Benefiber have reported huge sales growth in recent years.
Dow Chemical, which makes pharmaceutical ingredients for pharmaceutical companies, is building new factories that employees say are in part to produce more polyethylene glycol, the laxative that has been hard to come by since the pandemic. Polyethylene glycol is also used in cleaning products and moisturizers.
Older people move less and are more likely to take medications that cause constipation as a side effect. Doctors often recommend taking laxatives or fiber supplements, which help the body form stools that are easier to excrete.
Surprisingly, more and more young clients are using fiber supplements, providers say.
Haleon, the maker of Benefiber, a popular plant-based fiber supplement, said people ages 18 to 42 are taking up the supplement faster than ever.
Jissan Cherian, head of marketing at Haleon, noting that its messaging hasn’t changed, said: “Demand has changed.”
He believes the move is due to millennials focusing more on wellness and a greater awareness of the link between gut bacteria and depression.
Earlier this year, Haleon launched a gummy version of its product to specifically appeal to young adults.