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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

MiraLAX Users - Caveat Emptor!

Users of MiraLAX and other generic polyethylene glycol products need to be aware of potential harmful side effects from using this constipation medication!  Generics for MiraLAX include brands such as Clearlax, GlycoLax, Healthylax, Purelax, Dulcolax, and many other products containing polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG) as an active ingredient.

Many people, especially special needs children, suffer with chronic constipation, reflux, and slow motility issues. Most doctor-prescribed "remedies" are prescription or over-the-counter drugs designed to mask the symptoms and address the problem with a man-made chemical solution.  In our own household, we are guilty of using these remedies time and time again. In fact, for Rebekah, we use a daily regiment of reflux and constipation medications. One popular drug, Nexium, has received a lot of heat for bone depletion issues and I mention this topic in this blog post about the dangers of Nexium and other PPI-type medications.

I was recently made aware of the following link which explains why MiraLAX (and any laxative using Polyethylene Glycol 3350 (PEG for short) as their active ingredient) is not good for you.
It is comforting to know that the main ingredient of these laxatives is a chain of ethylene glycol molecules - commonly used in brake fluid and antifreeze. There is evidence showing extremely concerning potential side effects. I try not to be an alarmist, I know there are many websites out there that tell similar stories about many products we use (like corn syrups, artificial sweetners, etc). But it becomes increasingly alarming to think that all of our advancements in chemistry have just led us to create unnatural products that are harming us more than helping.

According to this particular miralax claim, there is supportive evidence that shows that polyethylene glycol (PEG) is associated with neurotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, urticaria, and esophageal perforations. As an osmotic laxative, it blocks absorption of nutrients in the small intestine and leads to dysbiosis (lack of intestinal bacteria). The FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS) has included reports of serious kidney, rinary, bowel, blood, skin, and neuropsychiatric symptoms.  What I appreciate most (despite this not being a "medical" paper) is the appropriate links to actual medical journal papers that support the claims.

I did my own quick search and here are just a few of the things I found that support the article:

  • WebMD says that common side effects of use are nausea, cramping, and gas (many of the symptoms we are trying to fix in the first place!), and that caution should be used if you have certain stomach & intestinal problems / obstructions (isn't constipation a form of obstruction and chronic constipation a stomach/intestinal issue?) or irritable bowel syndrome.
  • The New York Times posted an article last year that states that there is no warning about use of MiraLAX with children despite lack of studies. Even more troublesome is that pediatricians are prescribing MiraLAX for long-term use despite the warning labels not to use it more than 7 days (my generic brand says 14 days).
  • Even states that long term use of MiraLAX can lead to diarrhea, dehydration, and mineral imbalance. (Given how many of our kids are on this as a long term regiment, how many of them are even having their blood checked for mineral imbalances?)

I don't know what to think anymore when you come across these websites that scare me into not using things. But it works! I have been thinking for a long time now how I can better help Rebekah and get her off of all of these unnatural medications for motility and bowel issues. We will be exploring blenderized diets and natural supplements, but I would be kidding myself if I said we are switching to all natural products and food. I can't put that kind of pressure on myself - I don't have the time or resources to do it all the "right" way. But I do know that educating myself helps me make better decisions and better choices for all of our family members, not just Rebekah.

So if you have something easy and affordable that works well, PLEASE share it with me! You may be able to help many other families besides mine.


  1. I too would love to hear about natural effective remedies. I am pretty natural in so many other ways so it is very frustrating to me to have my child on this med but I don't know what else to do. It has worked better than all the natural things I tried for years before finally agreeing to use it.

  2. Going to a BD is more work but worth it when the child is having health issues it can be worth it. Check out the BD section of Ainsley's blog if you want to know more. But I wonder if simply adding some prune juice into her formula with each feeding might do the trick. You also might want to try Compleat since it contains more "real food" it has more fiber and creates what I used to call "brownie batter" poops. For a kid with slow motility it might be just the thing.

  3. HI. We live in GA and have a special needs child. We are moving to SC soon. I would love to get in contact with you about changing waivers from state to state.

    Also, we did the miralax thing...AWEFUL! Now my child has a feeding tube that goes into her colon that we flush with water for her to have a bowel movement. IT"S AMAZING! No pain, no drugs, and works like a charm, very quickly.

    S HAll