Laxative overuse could be concern


After nearly 40 years of stomach problems for which I took laxatives, I am now chronically constipated. My bowels have no elasticity left to evacuate normally.

I have been taking five tablespoons of milk of magnesia every other night for the past three years. Before that I tried 12 ounces of prune juice every other day, but it gave me so much gas I had to stop.

Can taking all that milk of magnesia be harmful to me? If so, is there anything else you can suggest?

We encourage you to schedule an appointment with your physician promptly. As you know, the dose of milk of magnesia you are taking is higher than recommended.

Magnesium poisoning is rare in people with normal kidney function, but you would be in serious trouble if your kidneys weren't working well.

Your doctor will want to check your kidneys and help you plan a gradual program to help you return to a healthier regimen. People who abuse laxatives can end up in a constipation-diarrhea vicious cycle in which they are always treating symptoms.

Fluids and natural fibers are always preferable to strong laxatives. It may take quite a while for your digestive tract to recover from decades of laxative dependence.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.

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