Getting Off Laxatives - Yes, You Can

"I've been using laxatives for constipation for too long now. Can I transition off the laxatives and onto a soluble fiber supplement instead?"

Yes, you can - but how you go about this will make the difference between a successful and failed attempt. For just about everyone, particularly people with IBS, getting off laxatives is a terrific goal, as long-term laxative use has not been shown to be safe or healthy.

To quote from a US Pharmacist article (2006;31(6):20-28): "The FDA considers seven days to be the safe time limit for use of laxatives without physician consultation. However, stimulant laxatives cause many patients to become habituated to them because of their nonphysiologic and drastic action; some patients might use laxatives for years once they become reliant on them.

This practice can lead to changes in the colon that are carcinogenic and may result in death of colonic tissues located in the myenteric plexus. Patients should be urged to replace habitual use of stimulant laxatives with bulking [soluble fiber] agents.

However, abrupt discontinuation in habitual laxative overusers may result in an inability to evacuate the bowels. The colon may not respond normally as a result of years of artificial stimulation.

The patient may benefit from a gradual withdrawal. In this method, the pharmacist may recommend short-term stimulant use until the fiber begins to exert its own effect. A combination of a stimulant and fiber might be useful for a 30-day period to boost colonic function and bridge the transition from stimulant addiction to natural facilitation of bowel movements with fiber. After that period, the goal should be permanent discontinuation of stimulants in favor of fiber intake."

So, there you have it. Getting off laxatives in favor of a soluble fiber supplement is definitely a good idea. The question now is, how exactly do you go about doing this? Well, if you're transitioning to Tummy Fiber Acacia, a prebiotic organic soluble fiber meant specifically for people with IBS, try this...

First, remember that soluble fiber supplements are not laxatives, so they won't act like the laxatives you've been taking. They can work wonders for constipation, but they are not overnight solutions. It makes a great deal of difference how you take a soluble fiber supplement, and it's well worth the time and effort to do it right.

Just FYI, these are the best ways to NOT get the results you want:

* Try a soluble fiber supplement at a low dose for just a few days, then give up because there's no change.

* Go from zero to the maximum dose in one week flat, then give up because it's not working and now you're all bloated and gassy as well.

* Start taking a soluble fiber supplement at the same time you abruptly stop taking your laxatives (and this applies to enemas or colon cleanses as well, as they all artificially and abnormally affect gut motility), then give up because your constipation is suddenly worse, not better.

The cardinal rule with a soluble fiber supplement is to start at a low dose (for Tummy Fiber, just 1/2 a level measuring teaspoon, twice daily), and increase gradually. Constipation often requires a much higher daily dose than diarrhea, and it can take several weeks, or even a few months, to slowly work your way up to the maximum daily dose. Remember that you're transitioning to something that is not a laxative, so taking a low dose of a soluble fiber supplement for a few days will not alleviate your symptoms. What it will do is begin to acclimate your gut to a higher daily dose of fiber, and this is the goal. Don't give up as soon as you start - just realize that using a soluble fiber supplement is a slow, steady process. You will see improvements along the way.

It's tempting to think that if you need to reach the maximum dose to see the best results, you can just force your body to adjust to a high dose as fast as possible. After all, if your constipation will resolve on a soluble fiber supplement dose of, say, 25 grams a day, and it might typically take someone, say, 8 weeks to reach that dose, you'll be way ahead of the game if you race your way up to that dose in your very first week - right? Nope - wrong.

By definition, if you have IBS, you do not have a normally functioning gut. No matter how your IBS symptoms manifest (constipation or diarrhea, bloating or pain) your GI tract - and specifically, your gastrocolic reflex - is hyper-reactive to normal stimuli. Your goal should always be to keep your gastrocolic reflex stable so you can soothe and regulate your gut function (this is why enemas and colon cleanses can be as harmful for IBS as laxatives).

Suddenly overloading your bowel with a fiber dose that is possibly ten times your daily fiber intake before you started will do nothing but give you bloating and gas, as your GI tract struggles to deal with all of this unexpected fiber. Fiber is, after all, an indigestible carbohydrate, and your body needs to work to process it through your digestive tract.

Asking your gut to go from no soluble fiber supplement to a maximum daily dose too quickly is like trying to become a marathon runner by sprinting as hard and as fast as you can without rest. It won't work, you'll be frustrated, and you'll give up. Instead, go slowly, increase your dose gradually, and give your body the time and gentle approach it needs to adjust to the soluble fiber increase. You can't beat your colon into submission with IBS, you need to kindly, patiently, and consistently coax it into normal motility. Soluble fiber can help do this for you if you give it a fair chance.

If you've been regularly using laxatives, or artificially increasing colon motility through other means (enemas, colon cleanses, harsh stimulant herbs such as senna, cascara, aloe) the odds are pretty good that your bowel is dependent on them. If you suddenly stop using them, bowel motility might shut down and your constipation will seriously worsen. This would be the case even if you didn't add a soluble fiber supplement at the same time.

It is definitely possible to transition from a laxative or other unnatural methods of alleviating constipation to a soluble fiber supplement such as Tummy Fiber. But, you can't simply switch from one to the other in a single day and expect equivalent results. What you can do is keep taking your usual dose of laxatives while you begin your Tummy Fiber and then start to gradually increase your fiber dose. When you've been able to reach a fairly high daily dose (say, 2-3 tablespoons) you can start to gradually decrease your laxative.

Keep increasing the Tummy Fiber and continue decreasing your laxative, taking each step slowly and carefully. This is not likely to be a fast process, but the slower and steadier you go the more likely it is to have a highly successful result. I've heard from numerous people who transitioned off of laxatives, senna, enemas, and even prescription constipation drugs and onto a soluble fiber supplement, with terrific results. But it took anywhere from one to six months, depending on how long their bowels had been dependent on the laxatives.

Good things can be well worth the wait, and this is one of those situations where patience is truly a virtue. IBS is a lifelong problem for most people, so giving yourself a few months with the Tummy Fiber to make a tremendous improvement is not really taking too much time in the grand scheme of things.

Tip Takeaway: It is definitely possible - and ideal - to transition from a laxative or other unnatural methods of alleviating constipation to a soluble fiber supplement such as Tummy Fiber. But, you can't simply switch from one to the other overnight and expect good results. Make a slow, steady transition from one to the other and you should get successful, sustainable relief from IBS constipation.

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