Regular use of laxatives linked to greater risk of developing DEMENTIA
02/28/2023 // Zoey Sky // Views

The average adult will probably reach for over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives whenever they are suffering from constipation. This habit may seem harmless, but according to an alarming study published in the journal Neurology, the use of OTC laxatives is linked to a greater risk of suffering dementia.

A team of researchers from Harvard University, China and the U.K. reported that individuals who regularly used a laxative were at least 50 percent more likely to suffer cognitive decline.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than half a million people over a 10-year period. They hypothesized that drugs like laxatives may affect gut bacteria in a way that creates toxins in the nervous system. These toxins then travel to and harm the brain.

What causes constipation?

Different people have different bowel habits. Some people go three times a day, while others go less frequently, such as three times a week.

However, you may be constipated if you experience these symptoms:

  • Fewer than three bowel movements every week
  • Passing lumpy, hard or dry stools
  • A feeling of fullness, even after emptying your bowels
  • Straining or pain during bowel movements

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) recommends seeking medical advice if your symptoms don't go away or if you notice the following adverse effects:

  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • A feeling that gas is trapped
  • Blood in your stool
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Brighteon.TV

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • A sudden change in bowel movements

If you suspect that you have a more serious condition like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or colorectal cancer, consult a healthcare professional so they can carry out tests to rule out these conditions.

According to data, constipation is the reason for a whopping two million doctor visits in the U.S. every year. Over four million Americans suffer from constipation, making it the most common gastrointestinal (GI) issue.

Constipation is more common in middle-aged and elderly adults. It is often caused by not getting enough fiber-rich fruits and vegetables in your regular diet.

Constipation can also be the side effect of many medications the elderly may need to manage day-to-day life. While constipation itself rarely causes long-term health issues, the pain and discomfort linked to the condition can affect your quality of life.

Many people don't think twice about using OTC laxatives when they are constipated because these drugs help loosen stool and make it easier to pass through the body.

Constipation, laxatives and dementia risk

Dr. Feng Sha, a co-author of the study, explained that it's important to reduce someone's risk of dementia by first identifying risk factors that can be modified.

Sha, who is also a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangdong, China, added that continued research is needed to "further investigate the link" their research found between laxatives and dementia. (Related: Study links olive oil intake to reduced heart disease and Alzheimer’s risk.)

For the study, scientists gathered data from the UK Biobank, a bio-medical database of British people that is used to gauge long-term health trends. The team studied data from 502,229 people aged between 40 and 59 for an average of 10 years.

Among that particular group, 18,235 (3.6 percent) regularly used an over-the-counter laxative.

The researchers considered anyone who used the drug "most days of the week" as a regular user. The study participants were interviewed at the start of the survey and followed up about a decade later.

During the study, the scientists didn't consider the dosages of the laxative or how often they were used in their data, just whether the participant self-reported regular use in their Biobank survey.

During the course of the study period, 218 members of that group (1.3 percent) developed dementia. Only 1,969 (0.4 percent) of the people who did not use laxatives suffered from the condition.

After the research team adjusted for other risk factors like age, diet, fitness and genetic risk, they reported that those who use laxatives are increasing their dementia risk by as much as 51 percent.

The researchers warned that those who used osmotic laxatives like Miralax could have an even larger dementia risk. Osmotic laxatives work by drawing water from the rest of your body into the stool to soften it.

Other kinds of drugs help the stool retain its fluid, instead of adding fluid, which then assists in the process of eliminating it from your body. Scientists reported that those who used these drugs had a 64 percent increased risk of dementia.

The risk of vascular dementia, which occurs when the brain does not receive enough blood, increased by up to 97 percent among these people.

The scientists hope that their study can encourage people to make lifestyle changes instead of always using medication like laxatives to treat constipation, like staying hydrated.

An estimated seven million Americans aged 65 or older have dementia. The most common cause is Alzheimer's disease, a condition that affects 5.8 million people.

"Regular laxative use may change the microbiome of the gut, possibly affecting nerve signaling from the gut to the brain or increasing the production of intestinal toxins that may affect the brain," said Sha.

Sha added that the study revealed how the regular use of OTC laxatives was linked to a higher risk of dementia, especially in those who used multiple laxative types or osmotic laxatives.

Gut health and dementia risk

The researchers acknowledged that the study was observational and does not conclusively prove that laxatives cause dementia. However, the results are worth considering because changes to the microbiome of the gut can have various effects on your body.

Your gut microbiome includes trillions of bacteria, fungi, microbes and other microscopic beings. These beings are responsible for many parts of your overall health, but most importantly the digestion of the food you eat.

Changes to your gut microbiome have been linked to almost every facet of your life, including brain health.

The researchers suggested that laxatives change the biome in a way that produces toxins, which can then increase dementia risk.

Natural ways to prevent and relieve constipation

If you often experience constipation, follow the tips below to relieve or prevent it from happening in the first place:

  • Follow a balanced diet. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains ensure that you get enough dietary fiber for digestive health and healthy bowel movements.
  • Add prunes or bran cereal to a balanced diet.
  • Stay hydrated and drink enough water and other clear liquids throughout the day.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeine since these beverages can cause dehydration.
  • Eat high-fiber foods and consult a healthcare professional about using fiber supplements.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try adding probiotics to your diet, like those found in yogurt and kefir with live active cultures.

According to research, adding probiotics can be helpful if you suffer from chronic constipation.

If you start taking fiber supplements, drink plenty of fluids. Water and other fluids will help fiber work more efficiently.

Visit to learn more about other natural cures for constipation.

Watch the video below to find out how mangoes can help prevent constipation.

This video is from the Groovy Bee channel on

More related stories:

Study: Choline helps improve cognitive performance in the elderly.

New study links cell phone radiation to Alzheimer’s disease.

Periodically constipated? A traditional Japanese foot massage can alleviate its symptoms, according to a study.

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