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PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

Laxative habit needs a doctor's help

August 03, 2009|Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

I have had severe constipation for years. I've been using cascara sagrada for a daily bowel movement. I read that this herb was banned in 2002 as the Food and Drug Administration wasn't sure it was safe. Is it safe or not? I have tried fiber, stool softeners, you name it. Cascara sagrada is the only thing that works for me. My doctor thinks I should take something different.

Stimulant laxatives such as cascara sagrada can lead to dependence. After daily use for years, your digestive tract doesn't function normally. In 2002, the FDA reclassified cascara sagrada as not generally recognized as safe and effective. As a result, it can't be sold as an over-the-counter laxative. There was concern about liver toxicity, colorectal cancer and loss of electrolytes. Work with your doctor to overcome this laxative addiction.

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I have Type 2 diabetes, and I have started taking cinnamon capsules. The metformin I was taking was never as consistent at controlling my blood sugar as the cinnamon has been.

Although cinnamon may work more consistently for you, there is much more research supporting the beneficial effect of metformin on blood sugar. You should make sure your doctor is aware of your regimen, so you can work together to control your Type 2 diabetes.

When you buy cinnamon capsules, look for a water-soluble extract such as Cinnulin PF. Cinnamon may contain coumarin, which can be toxic to the liver. Coumarin is not water-soluble, so water-based extract should be safe.

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Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. www.peoplespharmacy.com

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