Mis-use of adult laxative for children—just the tip of the iceberg
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.
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!
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:
- Reading material in the bathroom…a red flag
- Getting enough fiber? 95% of Americans don’t
- FIBER. How much should we be eating?
- New York Times article. Miralax, a Drug for Adults, Is Popular as Children’s Remedy
- Constipation data: PRNewswire-FirstCall
Handy 3-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Our book: Healthy Eating, Healthy World by yours truly & son
- An essential nutrition resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation