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Regular laxative use can increase dementia risk, study finds

There are many proven dementia risks and studies continue to add to that list. Now, research reveals your toilet habits may be a factor.

Constipation is a common affliction, leaving sufferers feeling uncomfortable and maybe bloated and potentially having a big impact on quality of life.

Those who suffer repeated bouts of constipation often take a laxative.

But a laxative should only be a temporary treatment, say health professionals who urge sufferers to seek out the underlying cause.

They say that using laxatives too often can cause you to become dehydrated and lose electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential for physical movement, ensuring that there is adequate electrical flow through the muscles.

Significantly low levels of electrolytes can cause weak muscles, seizures and paralysis in different parts of the body.

Now, you can add increasing your risk of dementia to the list of reasons to limit laxative use.

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Researchers from the University of Kansas analysed the healthcare data of more than 500,000 people and found a possible link between regular laxative use and incidences of dementia in later life.

In total, 54.4 percent of people analysed were female and 3.6 percent reported using laxatives on most days of the week.

Over a follow-up period of just under 10 years, 1.3 per cent of regular laxative users had developed dementia, compared to 0.4 per cent of non-users.

The numbers may seem small, but framed another way, excessive laxative use increased all-cause dementia risk by 51 per cent and vascular dementia risk by 65 per cent overall.

Interestingly, the study showed using different types of laxatives increased dementia risk even further. All-cause dementia risk increased by 28 per cent for those using a single laxative type and by 90 per cent for those using two or more laxatives compared to non-users.

It’s not entirely clear exactly why laxative use increases dementia risk, but the researchers believe it’s their influence on gut microbiota. Laxatives can increase the production of toxins linked to inflammation, neural damage and amyloid protein build-up – long known as a marker for dementia.

Associate Professor Feng Sha, co-author of the study, told Medical News Today that while using laxatives occasionally would not increase dementia risk dramatically, if you found yourself needing them more often, then dietary and lifestyle changes were in order.

“Instead of regular use of laxatives, constipation can be mitigated most of the time by lifestyle changes, such as increasing fluid intake, dietary fibre, and activity levels, which may also benefit brain health.”

Do you use laxatives often? Will this cause you to cut back? Let us know in the comments section below.

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