Miralax, one of the most popular fiber supplements, is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain
A wave of American teenagers are using laxatives like ‘cheap Ozempic’ to feel thinner, which is contributing to a shortage of medications to loosen stools.
Demand is starting to outstrip supply for polyethylene glycol 3350, the generic name for laxatives like Miralax and Glycolax.
The fact that teenagers turn to laxatives may mean that people who really need them to treat genuine constipation are unable to access the medication, such as those with Crohn’s disease.
Laxatives may give the impression of short-term weight loss, but only water weight is lost and regained when someone starts drinking again.
The aging of the American population, as well as the general lack of fiber in the diet, are also causing a shortage of laxatives.
The hashtag #guttok has more than 1.1 billion views on TikTok
A wave of American teenagers are using laxatives like ‘cheap Ozempic’ to feel thinner, contributing to a shortage of medications to loosen stools.
Dr. Jenna DiLossi, an eating disorder specialist, told Wall Street Journal He had seen a sharp rise in the number of teenage patients abusing laxatives in the past two years, with some seeing it as an over-the-counter form of Ozempic.
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 may think that laxatives will help them pass out what they have eaten before the body absorbs the calories, meaning they will lose weight.
But this is false. The food we eat goes through many processes before reaching the intestine and becoming feces.
The body absorbs calories, fats, and most nutrients before they reach the large intestine.
What’s left is mostly water and some minerals that your body doesn’t need. Some is absorbed by the body in the large intestine.
If someone takes laxatives and loses weight, they are only losing water. As soon as they drink something, they will regain the weight.
Before the pandemic, Dr. DiLossi said new clients rarely answered “yes” to laxative use on intake surveys.
The Pennsylvania clinical psychologist said that now, at least three of the five new teens she typically sees each week admit to trying a laxative to lose weight.
“When people have excessive bowel movements and feel completely empty inside, that translates into leanness and health,” he said.
Dr. DiLossi said the teens told her they got the idea to try laxatives on TikTok, where the hashtag #GutTok has garnered 1.1 billion views.
He said even videos that don’t directly promote laxatives for weight loss support the idea that going to the bathroom more frequently is better for your health.
According to analytics company Pattern, searches for laxative pills on Amazon have more than tripled over the past year.
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.
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.