Health & Spirit

Don't overdo it on the laxatives

By Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. on

In the 2005 movie "Wedding Crashers," John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) cruise weddings (without invitations) to find dates. That is, until John falls for a bride's sister, Claire. To steal her away from her boyfriend named Sack (really!), John puts medicated eyedrops into his wine, producing a laxative effect that leaves him stuck in the bathroom for a whole evening. John takes the opportunity to bond with Claire.

Laxatives, used correctly and as a medical necessity, can provide welcome relief from constipation. Depending on the cause of your constipation, it may even be safe to take a low-dose laxative under medical supervision for quite a while. But often, they can be harmful.

The European Food Safety Authority recently warned that long-term use of a plant substance called hydroxyanthracenes, found in laxatives such as senna and rhubarb extract, could cause DNA damage. It also has been linked to cancer in animal studies. Abuse of any laxative has serious health risks. Longer-term use or taking high doses regularly -- for constipation or as an unwise weight-loss trick -- can put you at risk for nutritional deficiencies and kidney damage.

So for occasional constipation, natural relief comes from:

--Drinking lots of water

--The CRAP diet: cranberries, raisins, apricots and prunes

--Eating high-fiber foods and avoiding fast and processed foods, dairy and red meat

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--Getting plenty of exercise (heading for 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent)

--Through biofeedback sensors and monitors (in your doc's office), you can learn how to control muscles responsible for your bowel movements!


Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit

(c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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