Don’t Take That Laxative Just Yet

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

September 25, 2015

  • Don’t take that laxative or anti-diarrheal medicine just yet
  • The problem with “high fiber” foods
  • Eat the right fiber for your bowel problem

Everybody experiences bowel problems every now and then. But for some people, it’s a constant battle. You might find that you’re frequently bound-up and constipated. Or maybe you fall at the other end of the spectrum.

This makes it easy to reach for an over-the-counter laxative or anti-diarrheal medicine. Unfortunately, these easy “solutions” could be doing more harm than good.

For example, if you regularly take a stimulant laxative like Ex-Lax it can create laxative dependence. This means you can’t “go” unless you take a laxative.

I find that a lot of folks make this mistake.

And if you have the opposite problem, it’s easy enough to take an anti-diarrheal medicine. But here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know. If your diarrhea is caused by a virus or bacteria, taking an anti-diarrheal can make it last longer.

The reason for this is simple. The medication stops your body from getting rid of the bacteria or virus that’s causing the diarrhea in the first place. (These generally run their course in a matter of time, and you don’t want them to last longer than they have to!)

Whether you’re going too often, or not enough, I have a couple of recommendations that can really help you out.

The first is to watch out for gluten.

This protein is found in many of the foods that you probably think of as being “high in fiber.” You might even eat them specifically for the fiber content. Especially since big food makers often market them that way.

Most prepared breakfast cereals and high fiber snack bars – bran, wholegrain and otherwise – contain gluten.

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The problem is, if you have gluten sensitivity and/or eat non-organic, glyphosate (Roundup) sprayed wheat, it can wreak havoc on your digestive system. You might feel bloated, gassy or have abdominal pain. And quite often, constipation or diarrhea will accompany those symptoms.

I find my patients are much better off getting their fiber from natural plant sources. And you will be, too.

Soluble fiber works well to treat both conditions. You can get plenty of it in foods like beans, figs, mangos, sweet potatoes, apricots, oranges and berries. Brussels sprouts, turnips and asparagus are also high in soluble fiber.

If you’re constipated, you can try boosting your insoluble fiber intake as well. But cut down on this type of fiber if you’re hitting the “can” too often. The skins of fruits and beans are both high in this kind of fiber. So are lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, spinach and broccoli.

And no matter which condition you have, it’s a good idea to start taking a probiotic.

Probiotics can reduce both the duration and stool frequency. They even work to cut your risk of Clostridium difficile. This is a particularly nasty diarrheal infection that’s caused by over-use of antibiotics and antacids (proton pump inhibitors).

At the same time, probiotics work against constipation. They decrease the amount of time it takes to go after meals, boost the frequency of bowel movements and keep your stool at a healthy consistency.


Allen SJ, et al. Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Nov 10;(11):CD003048.

Johnston BC, et al. Probiotics for the prevention of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2012 Dec 18;157(12):878-88.

Dimidi E, et al. The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Oct;100(4):1075-84.

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