Around 2.5 million folks in the U.S. see a doctor each year because they’re constipated. And in 2021, Americans spent
$1.68 billion dollars on laxatives! The money is flowing a lot better than many folks’ bowels, that’s for sure.
Constipation means that you have fewer than three bowel movements a week — although what’s normal is highly individual (some folks go multiple times a day, some only a few times a week). But when you can’t go, it means your stools are hard and dry.
Constipation may result from a lack of fiber in your diet, dehydration, stress, suppressed bowel movements, and/or medication you take (narcotic pain meds, iron supplements, antacids with calcium, antidepressants, some diuretics, and overuse of over-the-counter laxatives).
A new study shows that using one laxative regularly is associated with a 28% increased risk of developing dementia, compared to people who don’t use them! So-called osmotic laxatives that draw water to the colon to soften stool are associated with an even greater risk. And those using multiple laxatives? That was associated with a 90% increased risk. Although the study didn’t show direct cause (constipation) and effect (dementia), the association is still worth noting.
To ease constipation, eat legumes, 100% whole grain, fruits and veggies, ditch processed foods, drink plenty of water and see your doctor to assess what else will help. One interesting new treatment: Swallowing a Food and Drug Administration-approved, vibrating capsule twice a day (it exits gracefully) stimulates the colon for a few seconds and causes bowel movements without the use of drugs.