Childhood constipation, another sad, food-driven story

Mis-use of adult laxative for children—just the tip of the iceberg

It worked for mommy and daddy; why not give it to the kids?

Last week, the New York Times ran a story about one adult laxative, Miralax, that was routinely being given to children. In the lengthy article (See link below), I was struck by the fact that diet was hardly even mentioned. It was all about the laxative and whether or not its use by children was a problem that should be addressed. The article began:

Since it was first introduced 13 years ago, a drug called Miralax — an odorless, tasteless laxative that can be easily diluted in orange juice or water — has become a staple in many American households.

But the way many families use Miralax and its many generic equivalents has strayed far from its original intent. The Food and Drug Administration approved the drug for use only by adults, and for only seven days at a time.

Instead, Miralax has become a long-term solution for childhood constipation — a problem that can be troubling not just physically, but also emotionally — rather than a short-term fix so that parents can change their children’s diets to include more fruits and vegetables.

Aha! More fruits and vegetables. The manufacturers designed the product as a short-term remedy that should only be used for seven days. That would be assuming that constipation is some rare disorder that only happens occasionally. Well, if that were the case, the sales of Miralax would suffer mightily. How big is the constipation business in this country? From a PR Newswire from 2008, I found this information:

Constipation is a common gastrointestinal complaint, affecting more than 65 million Americans. Most people resort to over-the-counter laxatives for relief of constipation, as evidenced by annual laxative sales of over $1 billion. There are an estimated 700 or more varieties of OTC and prescription laxatives available today.

With 65 million adults reporting problems, you can bet that the number actually affected is much larger. But what about the kids? How many of them are on it? The article didn’t make that very clear but many doctors reported that it’s common to see children on daily use of the product for years.

“I’ve had kids on it daily for years,” said Dr. Scott W. Cohen, a pediatrician in Beverly Hills, Calif., adding that he will generally refer them to a specialist in prolonged cases. For children with chronic constipation who are not being helped by dietary changes, “We literally give it like water.”

What about fiber? No mention of the word in the entire article. Yet we all know that fiber is what makes things move smoothly through our intestines. The problem is that less than five percent of the population gets anywhere close to enough of it in their diet. The experts recommend 20 to 35 grams per day for adults but the average American gets less than 10 grams.

So would 20 to 35 grams/day be enough? Not in my opinion. That’s because if we eat a diet of mostly whole, plant-based foods as nature intended, we’d easily get well over 60 grams daily. My own fiber consumption varies between 70 and 90 grams and things are working very well in that department.

I have not heard of a single case of constipation from anyone eating at the 4Leaf level. Click image to get started.

But I remember having chronic constipation as a child and throughout most of my adult life—until about ten years ago. That’s when I made the shift to mostly whole plants—a move that triggered an automatic cleansing of my system. Let’s just say that I saw some mighty yucky looking stuff coming out of my body during that first year. Since then, my stools have been smooth and regular—an average of about 10 to 15 per week.

If only the public could be educated about what we should be eating to avoid most of our health maladies, including constipation. Sadly, stories like this continue:

Following a pediatrician’s advice, Mary, a Manhattan mother who asked to be identified only by her first name, started giving her daughter Miralax at 3 years old, when she defecated only every three to seven days, with many tearful hours in between.

“You’re begging her, promising her anything,” Mary said, adding that her child did eat broccoli and pears. Then came “the magic powder,” as she called it. A capful diluted in juice made her regular, but the problem returned when she tried to wean her off it.

Well, a few pieces of broccoli and an occasional pear are not going to work if the bulk of the diet is the toxic American version of meat, dairy, eggs and processed carbs three meals a day. A comment posted under the article by a reader spoke volumes about the true cause of this nation-wide tragedy:

This says more about what’s wrong with the American diet than anything else… there is no reason for children to be constipated if they are eating the right food!

Today’s “system” is all about money, power, ego and control—according to Dr. T. Colin Campbell.

But there is no money to be made by everyone being healthy; therefore, our profit-oriented “system” is never going to tell us exactly what we need to fix this mess. Just as they didn’t tell us what to do about obesity in the HBO Special: The Weight of the Nation.

But, we are all free to choose for ourselves. For your convenience are a few of my earlier blogs on this subject, along with the newspaper articles:

Handy 3-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

SHARE and rate this post below.

Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
This entry was posted in Colon Health. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Childhood constipation, another sad, food-driven story

  1. Leo S. says:

    Isn’t polyethylene glycol used in automobile radiators, and also found in ice cream?

  2. Mitzi says:

    Glad my parents didn’t have that substance to access. They discovered that starting my day with oatmeal and fruit made me a much happier child. Then the bread went brown instead of white… I still had to make a lot of improvements as an adult, but the discovery that fiber was needed happened pretty early. Sad that people would dose their kids with a laxative every day. Oats and fruit for breakfast, a bean burrito or whole wheat pbj with carrot sticks for lunch, and a veg-and-whole grain dinner would solve the problem (and a lot of others) for good.

  3. John says:

    Miralax is Polyethylene Glycol, a compound use in manufacturing. How convenient that it happens to mess with the digestive system of humans and cause them to poop. It seems, people will put anything in their systems!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s