For many parents, constipation is a regular challenge for their children and it’s one of the common medical issues associated with autism. For our kids, so many things are toxic and you need to be concerned with whether or not your food or cookware is toxic, whether your child has too much exposure to EMF, and making sure her diet and gut health is in a proper balance. Now that we too have felt the difficulties associated with constipation, I understand the frustration and anguish as parents watch their kids writhe in pain because they simply cannot poop.
To deal with this problem, many doctors are prescribing MiraLAX as a remedy and I have heard parents actually claim that they have used this treatment for a year or two on their child.
Too MUCH MiraLAX brings with it inherent risks and I’m sharing this article about the dangers of MiraLAX and what other options parents have. Additionally, using a laxative isn’t solving the problem; it’s just relieving symptoms. In fact, this story won’t go away!
Why MiraLAX is Under Fire
In January 2015, the NY Times (NYT) reported on the validity of using laxatives as a childhood remedy. The article reports that “doctors have long recommended these laxatives for their convenience and on the grounds that very little PEG 3350 (the active chemical in MiraLAX) is absorbed in the intestines.” At the time, the FDA claimed there was not enough data about the effect of this chemical in children.
In 2016, the FDA investigated the prolonged use of MiraLAX on children.
“FDA decided that no action is necessary at this time based on available information” for PEG 3350. However, given the track record of the FDA, I would myself say, “Let me see the evidence.”
More Recent Trouble for MiraLAX
Since the 2015 report, you might have thought this all settled down.
- May 2018: There was ANOTHER headline about this toxic chemical. This NBC News article is reporting on it, the headline reads, “Parents warn popular over-the-counter medication sickened their kids.” Pretty damning, isn’t it? What’s interesting is that the article has science in it which “proves” it’s safe for children. Tell that to the mom whose child was on increasing doses of this drug from ages 1 through 6. After the girl had a hospital stay, they stopped the MiraLAX.What happened? The child suffered tics and aggression and within 30 days, those behaviors were GONE. Read MORE stories in the article and learn about the FDA’s study.
- October 2017: Read this doctor’s editorial on why the science is lacking and we can’t be sure at this time if MiraLAX is safe for children.
A Group of Families Comes Forward
6ABC News reported this week that an over the counter medication is getting kids sick. “A group of families approached Action News with disturbing claims that children have developed neuro-psychiatric problems after taking MiraLAX.”
Problematic Symptoms of MiraLAX Reported
Parents have reported anger, rage, aggression, anxiety, paranoia, mood swings. In response, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) just conducted $325,000 of research on one of the main ingredients of MiraLAX, PEG 3350.
At that time the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reportedly told Action News, “there was “insufficient data to demonstrate a link between PEG 3350 and serious neuropsychiatric issues in children.”
They cited only 167 adverse events reported to the FDA through 2012. Unfortunately, the reporters found a LOT more than that. They discovered 5x as many in the reports they searched.
More Families Speak Out About MiraLAX
After the initial report on 2/15/17, more families reached out to 6ABC News. “Lots of parents have reached out to us asking what to do, desperate for answers because some say after their children were prescribed MiraLAX off-label, the behavioral issues started – from depression to anger, anxiety and mood swings.”
In fact, this garnered so much attention that the FDA responded. Additionally, the report links to the CHOP study.
FDA, CHOP and Doctor Feedback Over MiraLAX
The FDA is continuing its study. This article lists the details of the study, which is being conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Meanwhile, outraged parents have formed a Facebook support group. This article is worth a read for some of the stunning comments made by William T. Gerson, MD:
“One needs to remember that, unfortunately, children can rarely have the sudden onset of disturbing symptoms,” Gerson said. “Given the common use of MiraLAX, chance association is likely to occur; that by no means is meant to infer that there are not rare complications or that the use of MiraLAX is appropriate in all situations. However, there are no data to support a change in practice at this time and alternative treatments are not necessarily safer.”
This Sounds Familiar…
This sounds an awful lot like the initial response to mitochondrial disease or PANDAS, “It doesn’t exist.” “The symptoms are not a sign of a health issue.”
It also sounds like tobacco science: “We’ll keep using what is not recommended (lon-term use of MiraLAX, use of MiraLAX for children) until we conclusively have evidence beyond your stories, Mom.”
Is MiraLAX causing behavioral problems in children? Another mom shares her story.
Yet another article, this one from December 2017:
- Bayer reiterates that the usage time on the label is 7 days; anyone prescribing it for longterm use is NOT them, but a physician.
- David Rosenberg, Chair of Psychiatry at WSU & Children’s Hospital of Michigan says that “often children with digestive issues also have psychiatric issues.”Instead of docs just prescribing away (opioids, anyone?), maybe they should get educated on the human microbiome and find out why these things are happening to kids. Relieving symptoms without knowing what’s going on does very little to help a body.
More Reports of Harm
The study came about in some part because of the reports the FDA has received complaints of seizures, tremors, tics, headache, anxiety, lethargy, sedation, aggression, rages, obsessive-compulsive behaviors including repetitive chewing and sucking, paranoia and mood swings. Unfortunately, this page has been removed from the FDA website.
You can read more about parental concerns about the dangers of MiraLAX on this NYT article, “Drug for Adults is Popular as Children’s Remedy.”
In addition, MiraLAX was never approved by the FDA for use in children. The current studies that show no dangerous adverse effects have not been adjusted for children, so there is no way to know if it can be causing damage. Meanwhile, another news story surfaced in June 2015.
Law360.com reports that a Pennsylvania man who took MiraLAX for 4 years under a physician’s supervision sued Bayer for kidney damage, citing PEG 3350 as the cause.
The Dangers of MiraLAX & the Experts
What do the experts say about the dangers of MiraLAX?
We’re Over-Constipated as a Culture
Over at Parents.com, Steve J. Hodges, M.D., associate professor of pediatric urology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina who widely prescribed this laxative to his patients defended his position.
What’s interesting about the article is the prevalence of constipation in the Western world – he calls it an epidemic – and the causes: too many processed foods, too-early potty training, kids “holding it in.” I feel like this doctor has left out way too many causes of constipation.
Remember too, that in this article, Hodges is defending his prescribing and that it’s the FDA – hardly the most caring of organizations – that has put MiraLAX on the firing line. In fact, some doctors recommend parents to “develop an exit strategy” to get off of MiraLAX.
PEG 3350 is “Safe”
So what is in MiraLAX and other laxatives? PEG 3350 is short for Polyethylene Glycol 3350. Autism Speaks reports that the FDA found trace amounts of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol when studying these laxatives while the FDA claims these are toxic only in large amounts.
Note that both of these chemicals are in antifreeze, but I don’t know if the chemical composition may be different in MiraLAX. The problem for me with “trace amounts” is that we’re not sure what other products our kids are exposed to that also have trace amounts.
In addition, while most doctors and experts agree that trace amounts of chemicals safely leave the body, kids with autism have difficultly methylating and detoxing their systems the way that people without autism do. That would make me very nervous, and it’s part of why I keep my daughter to only natural remedies and additive-free foods.
PEG 3350 May Be Habit-Forming – MiraLAX Isn’t
So I found several articles that said ONE thing, and several that said the other. The question: is MiraLAX habit forming? One article I found linked to a PDF of the MiraLAX label, but it did not claim to be habit-forming, however, it did say to check with your doctor after 7 days if you have no relief. Seven days…and some people are taking it for years and years. MedLinePlus claims that PEG 3350 “may be habit-forming,”
I’ve seen so many back and forth arguments about the dangers of MiraLAX, including the argument that since a child’s colon is not doing its job, the question of overusing this laxative is moot. That, however, is a circumvention of the real problem. Like so many over the counter drugs, MiraLAX is merely treating a symptom and not removing the cause of constipation.
If you’re worried about Miralax, read part 2 of this article for alternative solutions!
- What Causes Constipation & Alternative Solutions
- The Autism Diet & Food Intervention: Do They Work?
- The GAPS Diet: What You Need to Know About This Popular Gut Healing Intervention
- Camel Milk For Autism: Why You Might Want to Try It
- How To Buy Safe Food When You Can’t Afford Organic
Disclaimer: I’m not a trained medical provider. You should always check with your healthcare provider when you are changing care for your child or considering treatments.
My daughter suffered from chronic constipation since she was 9months old. Our doctor prescribed miralax and had her on it for about a year. After we started seeing and linking her negative side effects to miralax we decided to detox from miralax. I say detox because you have to slowly transition over a few week period because it is a medication therefore in my opinion a drug that they need to “come down” from. Our remedy was regular chiropractor visits (3 x a week for first month) now once a month. We also incorporated chlorella pills daily a natural enzyme pill and essential oils rubbed on belly and bottoms of feet. We still have to use all these things and yes it’s more things than the one “miralax” but my sweet loving happy daughter is back. And she is healthy as can be! No more temper tantrums, bouts of anger or twitches. There are many solutions, but these worked best for us.
Hi Tamara, thank you so much for sharing the story of your daughter’s success with us! I’m so glad to hear that she is now healthy – THAT is its own reward. You’re right – we often needs to slowly detox from the things our systems have become accustomed to, especially if they are unnatural. It does take time, as well as a strong parent – like you obviously are! Glad to hear she is doing so well.
Mike Koehler says
Good article, thank you for putting this together. Children need to develop naturally, miralax is doing the work for the colon and could weaken the muscles of the GI tract.
“Repeated use of laxatives in higher and higher doses makes the colon less able to respond naturally to the need to have a bowel movement.”http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/constipation/GI-complications-pdq#section/_15
We know that the gut flora is altered in colonoscopy patients, what effect is this having on the enteric nervous system(ens)? We know the ens communicates with the central nervous system(cns), the ens also controls bowel movements; now the miralax is eradicating all the bacteria from the GI tract which the ens relies on. We have only compounded the constipation issue and have opened the door to potential neurological conditions.
Hi Mike, thank you for sharing this article and for the compliment! One of my problems with the way some doctors have become today is that they just fix a symptom and don’t really think about the consequences of their solution or the root causes of an issue. I feel like this process of the body “forgetting” or losing a crucial process is a threat that we see with all kinds of medications. I hope and pray that medical doctors will start to rethink this approach and to take a longer, deeper look into what is ailing their patients to truly solve health issues, rather than slapping a bandaid – like Miralax – on a much bigger injury.
Mike K says
I almost feel our medical doctors have become marketing directors, it’s a shame. For instance, just recently I attended the AAP national convention in Chicago which I couldn’t believe the size of some of the exhibits. Ironically, Dove(soap) maybe had one of the biggest displays, it rivaled that of Merck’s. Weeks later, we take our son to our pediatrician for his wellness visit; he’s been dealing with eczema the last couple of years. We use dr.bronners soap in our house, she totally proclaimed dr.bronners soap to be unsafe and harsh and that we should be using Dove? Are you kidding me?
I fear the same is true with miralax also. Come to find out that pediatric studies were never done; this was after the FDA deferred them for 10 years back in 2006. I hope that one day miralax/Bayer gets their day in front of a Supreme Court judge. It won’t matter a whole lot, they have plenty of $$ while I’m sure they have a replacement for miralax ready to go.
Hi Mike. WOW. That sucks, about the soap. Dr. Bronners is very good. Yea, I haven’t used Dove or any of that crap in like 8 years maybe. And my skin is better for it. 🙁 You’re right, they are marketers. One time I went for a checkup and the physician’s assistant (didn’t see regular doc) spent the entire 20 minutes trying to sell me products that I can’t even use because I’m on blood thinners. Not only that, but she came in dressed like she was going to a business meeting in the fashion industry while I’m my paper robe. GAG. They don’t even CARE if we trust them anymore.
Sadly, I think you’re right about the replacement for Miralax. Have you seen their new commercial? About how it’s better because it works differently, implying it’s safer. Yea right… Thanks for stopping by and sharing!
Please join Facebook page “PARENTS AGAINST MIRALAX” for helpful information. Over 1800 members and growing every day. BEWARE OF MIRALAX. IT IS DANGEROUS!
Thank you Anne, I will look into it.
Anne Williams RN BSN says
Do you think Miralax is dangerous?
How long will it take the FDA to protect the helpless children? (about 60% of FDA funds come from the pharmaceutical industry)
I believe any drug can be dangerous when taken improperly or prescribed irresponsibly with little oversight. It’s also not meant for children. I think the FDA doesn’t give a hoot about kids or Americans at large. I’d be happy to see them disbanded personally, especially since when they DO make a correct decision, it’s often years after many already knew. And that’s rare.
Hi today I broke with the cause of my 2 yr baby’s autism diagnosis, she was perfect as per her age till her 14th month, her pediatrician gave miralax for constipation.
I blindly believed in her with no research (I generally do lot of research for my baby my bad luck I did not notice it as a negative medication)
Our fate😣 we used 300-400gms of miralax in total for 9 months on my little love
She recently diagnosed with autism
Then I started finding cause and treatment for it
Now finally today marking miralax on RED flag with my analysis from these 9months changes
Now I totally broke up and feeling guilty for my little girl for what I gave her as medication
Please please help me if any treatment I can do now to overcome the effect of miralax
And now we are giving her therapies for her delays
Hi Achu, thank you for reaching out. First off, don’t beat yourself up! We only know what we know and sadly, the medical community is not often on the cutting edge of research. Secondly, I don’t know what your child’s symptoms are exactly other than constipation so I can’t recommend one thing or another. Thirdly, I’m going to email you off the list with resources. My email is a gmail email as well, so make sure it doesn’t fall into spam. My user name is ginabad. Getting back to you shortly!