Mend Physical Therapy Blog and Injury Information

Regular laxative use tied to increased dementia risk – how PT can help reduce the need for laxatives

March 27, 2023

Findings in a new study are now more than ever clearly defining the link between the brain and the gut microbiome. The study showed regular laxative use tied to increased risk of dementia. Researchers followed over 500,000 UK residents over 10 years and those that regularly used osmotic laxatives (stool softeners) or a combination of laxatives had an increased risk of developing all-cause or vascular dementia.(1)

The gut-brain axis continues to get more and more attention. This bidirectional communication between the central and enteric nervous system links emotion and cognition with the intestinal tract. Therefore, research is finding the importance of a healthy gut is imperative in maintaining a healthy mind. 

Evidence suggests 50% of patients presenting with constipation have “functional constipation (FC),” meaning difficulty passing stool is not related to an underlying medical condition. FC can be multifactorial, and include causes such as dysfunctional transit and/or outlet syndrome. Outlet syndrome is attributed to the inability to coordinate the pelvic floor muscles correctly (pelvic floor dyssynergia) making it difficult to have a bowel movement. As pelvic health specialists, we focus on restoring coordination in the pelvic floor muscles to alleviate constipation. Further, treatments focused on the abdomen to improve transit as well as teaching healthy bowel habits and mechanics can all together reduce constipation and thus the need for regular laxative use. If you find yourself using laxatives regularly or struggle with constipation, book an evaluation here with one of our pelvic health specialists in our Boulder or Lafayette locations.

  1. Yang, Z et al. Association Between Regular Laxative Use and Incident Dementia in UK Biobank Participants;. Neurology: Feb 2023, 10.