Is miralax safe for kids?

By Dr. Matt Hill

“I had no idea it could make his behavior even worse. My doctor definitely didn’t tell me that.” That was what Lisa, JJ’s mother shared with us on her initial consultation when we were diving deep into what really triggered JJ’s behavior to go from not good to horrible about 6 months before starting care. 

JJ had battled chronic constipation since he was an infant and now was dealing with severe behavior and anger issues as well, even getting violent with his sister and other kids. He had already been placed on the medication Miralax, and then later received a diagnosis of ADHD as well. Despite having just turned 3 years old, their pediatrician recommended JJ be put on ADHD medications in addition to Miralax. 

Thankfully a friend had recommended she take a look at drug-free options like Pediatric Chiropractic, and since she was more than concerned about her 3-year old being on two different medications so early in life, she made the call to PWC Chiropractic and got started. 

Once she did some research online and found out about all the dangerous side effects of Miralax, her first goal became to get JJ off of that as fast as possible! 

What is Miralax?

It’s safe to say if you’re a parent whose child struggles with constipation, you’ve heard of Miralax. This over-the-counter (OTC) laxative along with others of similar ingredients were introduced around the year 2000. 

The main ingredient in Miralax, polyethylene glycol 3350, is designed to help the digestive tract hold more water, which then also pulls more water into the stool. This helps the stool pass easier, as it’s softer. Miralax most often comes in a powder to mix with water or juice and while dosage recommendations are specific for adults, it is recommended you reach out to your provider for use with kids under 17. For more information on its origin and ingredients visit  GoodRx Health

While pulling water into the stool sounds like a natural “softening” solution, the ingredient (polyethylene glycol 3350) and the mechanism it uses within the body certainly isn’t natural. This is where the discussion begins in terms of its usage and safety, especially when it comes to children. 

 Is Miralax a Safe Option for Kids?

Miralax has been a point of controversy for years after the FDA did a study and found that 167 kids taking Miralax had severe emotional/psychiatric side effects in a 2014 study reported by CBS News. . This debate has continued as the FDA has failed to approve its use for kids under the age of 17. Its current use is considered off-label and while many pediatricians recommend its use for constipation many other sites and experts have documented common side effects that actually increase, bloating, gas, cramping diarrhea and even additional stomach pain and pressure. 

Additionally, the main ingredient polyethylene glycol 3350 mechanism of retaining water works against the body’s natural process of nutrient and fluid absorption. While altering this process may provide temporary relief, long term working against absorption not only changes the biochemistry of the body, but also the brain’s communication to our digestive system. 

This communication and coordination happens primarily through the function of something called the Vagus Nerve and Autonomic Nervous System, which has quite a bit of development to go through from birth through the first many years of life. When there is interference and dysfunction to this development, a condition called dysautonomia occurs, and a common side effect of that is slowed digestive motility and constipation

Developmentally, this learning of the digestive system naturally happens between 0-4 months while a newborn is laying the foundation with easy to digest breastmilk or formula. Then as the baby grows this simple process becomes more complex to be ready for solids at 6 months and more diverse foods going forward. 

Simply put, by following natural Developmental Milestones, the brain’s signals that begin working together, stay working together and are building blocks to the intricate balance of digestion (elimination) outward and absorption of (nutrients) inward. 

What are the Side Effects of Miralax?

Every medication has its pros and cons, with solutions to issues, and of course, side effects. The most commonly documented side effects of Miralax are surprisingly the  opposite of its intended benefit, leading to increased digestive struggles. Miralax side effects kids experience include:

  • Bloating
  • Stomach cramping
  • Gas
  • Nausea
  • feeling stomach pain or pressure
  • swelling in the stomach area
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Additionally, many parent groups have formed over the last 10+ years that are very critical of Miralax, citing experiences of their own children’s struggles on the medication and the documented studies which results have yet to show a definitive answer. These symptoms of Miralax include severe behavioral side effects such as Anxiety, mood swings, anger, paranoia, and massive personality changes.   While there is still debate on the association of each side effect academically, see this article in Parents, the vast amount of parents, caregivers and clinicians coming forward with experiences cannot be ignored. 

As parents, we have every right to be angry and frustrated when we hear or see real life examples of the side-effects above. When we turn to a medication, we want to be able to trust that it is not only effective but extremely safe. 

Understandably so, many parents get quite angry when they get online and learn of all these behavioral and emotional side effects with Miralax for the first time. But what we hope to do with this article and other information from PX Docs, is to help parents find a path and an option that gets to the root cause of their child’s constipation, and then take action to care for it naturally and without drugs.

Drug-Free Alternatives to Miralax for Kids

After 15 years of clinical practice, we continue to find that kids struggling with constipation come from three (3) main categories:

  1. Nutritional & Food Intolerances
  2. Neurological Interferences 
  3. Both Nutritional + Neurological

Here’s the wildest part of all this — while nearly 100% of the patient’s we begin care with have tried a multitude of diet changes, detoxes, and supplements, etc. — almost none of them have been told about how important the nervous system is when it comes to gut and digestive health.

The science behind it, especially as it relates to constipation and digestive issues, is super simple — an overstressed and overstimulated brain and nervous system is one that gets stuck on a perpetual, sustained fight-or-flight mode, known as the sympathetic side of the nervous system. When a child or person gets stuck in this state, it’s known as subluxation

This sympathetic side of the nervous system is designed for protection and stressful situations, not for relaxation, sleep, ease, and digestion. When stimulated, this “gas pedal” side of the autonomic nervous system works quickly to preserve resources for that “fight” or “flight” response, thus shutting down and limiting gut motility and function.

Limited motility and the wrong signals = constipation.

This lack of digestive motility caused by sustained sympathetic stress also limits the body’s ability to assimilate and excrete toxins and unwanted molecules. This is where the reactions to things like gluten, dairy, and so forth come in, as well as an increase in behavior issues and emotional dysregulation. 

These foods are already more difficult to digest by nature, but if you have a subluxated  nervous system filled with inference and distress… it struggles to digest and eliminate even the most basic of foods and healthy foods alike.

This is where the ultimate frustration comes in for parents. You’ve thrown the book at this problem for your child with amazing nutrition and supplements, yet the problem persists.

Getting to the Root Cause of Constipation    

As parents we are no strangers to research and leaving no stone unturned! 2am google searches and even analyzing our kids “stool types” to get an idea of what your kids poop should actually look like are just some of the depths we will go to find answers! 

If you feel like you’ve literally tried everything to help your child and still have not seen results, you could be like the thousands of parents who finally find that missing link once they learn about subluxation and dysautonomia, and seek out neurologically-focused Pediatric Chiropractic Care

If your child went through any of the following common prenatal and childhood challenges, then you absolutely will want to get them checked for subluxation and dysautonomia as soon as possible:

  • Mental & Emotional Stress during the Pregnancy
  • Birth Interventions such as Forceps, Vacuum Extraction, Manual Assistance, Induction, or C-Section Delivery
  • Difficulty Latching, Nursing, and Breastfeeding
  • Colic, Reflux, and Indigestion
  • Ear Infections, Eczema, and Skin Irritations
  • Frequent Antibiotic and Steroid Medication Use

These are all things we find to be contributors to not just constipation, but also set the stage for chronic sensory and neurodevelopmental challenges as well. We refer to this sequence and accumulation of stress as the overall Perfect Storm. One stressor stacks on top of another, and one diagnosis (colic) just gets a different name (sensory, spectrum, etc.) later on in life. 

It’s likely your doctor or someone told you that your child will “grow out of it” but the truth is, most kids “grow into” additional, chronic health challenges if not properly cared for.

Our PX Docs Network knows the neurology behind these challenges better than anyone else in health care, and are the most caring, compassionate, and comprehensive doctors you’ll ever meet. They will not dismiss your child’s constipation and health challenges as “normal” and sit idly hoping they grow out of it.

Experiencing a Drug-Free Future 

After just a few months of neurologically-focused pediatric chiropractic care, here’s what Lisa has to say about the changes she’s seen in JJ, “We have been able to go places more often and JJ will listen much better, which has taken my stress level from 30 to like a 5 now. We have been receiving so many compliments on how JJ acts! He’s not hitting people anymore, he’s less aggressive, he’s been able to share easier, and best of all…. He’s pooping every day! 

If you’ve tried it all, or are just getting started with helping your child’s chronic constipation, save the Miralax and drugs as an absolute last resort. The side effects of Miralax are many, and can be long-lasting as well. 

Since we find the vast majority of cases have that neurological stress and subluxation as a primary contributor, we strongly suggest scheduling a consultation and exam with your local PX Doctor as soon as possible! Simply plug in your city and state, or zip code into our PX Docs Directory and reach out right away. 

You’ll be blown away by how thorough and detailed our 5-Step Clinical Process really is, and how much the INSiGHT Scans our doctors use can be to really address the root cause of your child’s health challenges and constipation. 

We believe every child deserves a drug-free option as first choice, saving all the side effects of things like Miralax as a last resort only! 

Challenges Covered: ADHD | Constipation | Dysautonomia


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