Well, this is quite a movement, in more ways than one. Apparently, the U.S. now has a shortage of medications to promote bowel movements—namely laxatives, as reported by Rachel Wolfe for the Wall Street Journal. And one of the reasons why laxatives have been moving off the shelves more rapidly of late may be this new “budget Ozempic” weight-loss trend on TikTok. TikTokers have been promoting the use of laxatives such as Miralax, Ex-Lax and Glycolax as a cheaper way of losing weight than the prescription medication Ozempic, which contains semaglutide. But while laxatives can get things moving out of your you-know-where, in the end, they are not a good solution for weight loss.
If you search for the hashtag #GutTok on TikTok, you’ll get the poop on what people have been saying about laxatives on videos that have already garnered over 1.1 billion views in total. Many of these videos have made claims about consuming polyethylene glycol 3350—which is the generic name for Miralax—on a regular basis, even when you are already, you know, regular. This includes various videos suggesting that you should mix the Miralax powder with different types of food such as one that touts a so-called “Miralax Mango Miracle” smoothie. Yeah, you’re probably not going to see the word Miralax on the menu at any Michelin-starred restaurant anytime soon.
How does polyethylene glycol 3350 work? Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “learn by osmosis.” Well, polyethylene glycol 3350 is about pooping more by osmosis. It falls into the class of osmotic laxatives. As a concentrated substance, it creates an osmotic gradient between what traveling through the intestines and the cells lining the intestines so that water stays with the poop in your intestines rather than be absorbed through your intestinal walls. This, in turn, leads to softer and more frequent poops.
As you can imagine, using such a laxative certainly can help you lose some weight right off the bat. This weight loss is literally watered down, though. It’s almost entirely water weight, that is. And that’s not the same as losing body fat. You can quickly regain lost water weight once you drink enough water. It’s sort of like taking off all your clothes and exclaiming, “Look I’ve lost weight!”
Thus, rather than helping you really lose weight, polyethylene glycol 3350 actually helps dehydrate you when you don’t consume enough fluids to replenish this loss. And being dehydrated is not a good thing. You don’t want to be saying, “I can fit into my outfit now. So everything’s cool aside from the headaches, thirst, fatigue, dry skin, dizziness and the feeling that I am going to pass out.”
Moreover, because the fluid that you are losing through the butt may contain different levels of electrolytes, prolonged use of laxatives can also mess up the levels of electrolytes like chloride, sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphate in your body. Messing with these levels can lead to some really serious problems such as abnormal heart rhythms, muscle problems, seizures, confusion and coma.
Plus, there is the potential risk of becoming dependent on laxatives. Using laxatives can make you feel skinnier, even though, as noted above, you aren’t really losing any actual body fat weight. It also can provide a satisfying flushing-everything-out feeling sort of like letting out a fart, telling everyone around you how much you hate them, cleaning your closet, or doing all three things at the same time. So, therefore, you could end up, so to speak, getting attached to such feelings.
Of course, there are some hard reasons for the legitimate use of laxatives. If you are truly constipated and can’t soften the situation with a change in your diet, drinking more water or getting more physical activity, then, yes, a laxative may do the trick. It is a good idea, though, to check with your doctor first before using laxatives for any reason, especially if it is over a longer period of time.
The bottom line is that you are not going to lose weight in a sustained healthy manner simply by getting things to move through your bottom more frequently. It takes time, effort and committed dietary, physical activity and other lifestyle changes to truly lose weight. There are no real shortcuts. Now, some may believe that glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonists such as Ozempic can serve as such a shortcut. After all, such medications can result in fairly rapid weight loss. The problem is that the weight may return soon after you stop taking them. Moreover, it remains to be seen what may happen over the longer term when using Ozempic and other GLP-1 receptor agonists for weight loss.
All of this hasn’t stopped people from using the word “Ozempic” to label anything that they claim can lead to weight loss. Examples have included claims that the supplement berberine is “Nature’s Ozempic,” as I covered previously for Forbes, and, of course, this whole “budget Ozempic” thing. In the end, you’ve got to “Ozempic” fact from fiction. And you’ve got to determine which claims are legit and which are full of you-know-what.