Sometimes, those who are challenged with both weight issues AND constipation, try using laxatives to solve both issues. This never helps with weight problems because laxatives only clean out the colon. By the time your dinner reaches the colon, all the fattening ingredients have been absorbed by the 21 foot journey through the small intestine.
At least, that’s what I thought.
But now, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has proved me wrong. A few summers ago, they approved the first over-the-counter weight loss drug. Six months later, patients were seeing its laxative-like side effects.
“The Underwear Problem”
Side effects? Excuse me. I mean “treatment effects” as their online brochure insists on calling these undesirable results. They even suggest that you carry an extra pair of underwear wherever you go.
Of course, I’m referring to the diet pill, “Alli.” Alli is the brand name for a low dosage version of Xenical. Xenical is available by prescription only. Its embarrassing treatment effects where summed up by an FDA panellist as “the underwear problem.” GlaxoSmithKline, the maker’s of Alli, reports on its website to be on the look out for…
- gas with oily spotting
- loose stools
- more frequent stools that may be hard to control
Unlike laxatives, which inhibit your colon’s ability to dry up your stools, Alli starts working as soon as it hits your small intestine (where food is absorbed). The drug inhibits your body’s ability to absorb fat by as much as 25% (not a very impressive number, in my opinion).
Lubricating Your Colon With Pizza Oil
What happens to that unabsorbed fat? Well, that’s where the “treatment effects” step in. “The excess fat that passes out of your body is not harmful,” explains Alli’s online brochure. “In fact, you may recognize it as something that looks like the oil on top of a pizza.”
What kind of pizza? Pepperoni?
It now becomes clear why stools become loose and “hard to control.” In fact, you only have to browse around on the internet to see candid camera examples of how uncontrollable your colon becomes when lubricated.
Punished for Eating Fat
Of course, they are quick to turn these negative side effects — I beg your pardon… treatment effects — into a positive. They actually say that the risk of having diarrhea in your pants (in public) can serve as extra motivation to avoid eating fatty meals. In fact, they discourage you from having more than 15 grams of fat at any meal.
(It might be simpler, and healthier, to simply tie a bracelet around people’s necks that emits a shock when they consume more than a tablespoon of butter).
But it’s not that bad. In fact, the company goes on to suggest… “it’s probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work.” Interesting recommendation, when their website features a picture of a happy client reclining on a lazy boy wearing white clothes.
But Does Alli Cause Harm?
Or Just Embarrassment?
When you consider how many people suffer from constipation in North American, maybe some loose stools are a good thing? Especially if it’s not draining you of electrolytes like laxatives?
Well, consider this: You are strongly encouraged to take a multivitamin while on Alli. Because alli not only affects the absorption of fat, but also other valuable nutrients. In particular, fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin K, A, D and E. Who knows what other deficiencies it causes?
Now, Here’s Where This Goes
From Ridiculous to Serious to Life-threatening.
Here’s what I dug up on the FDA’s own webiste…
Back when Xenical was a prescription-only drug, April 10, 2006, Dr. Elizabeth Barbehenn, Ph.D., Dr. Sidney Wolfe, M.D., Dr. Therasa P. Pretlow, Ph.D. and Dr. Thomas G. Pretlow, M.D., of the Public Citizen petitioned the FDA. They requested that Xenical be taken off the market immediately. They had 10,000 concerned consumers backing them.
Their research found that the drug “causes a significant increase in the incidence of abberrant crypt foci [colon lesions], which are widely believed to be the precursor to colon cancer. This finding makes it even clearer how ill-advised switching orlistat to OTC status [alli] would be…”
You can read the letter on their website which goes into great details about their lab test.
These four doctors conclude that “the failure to ban this prescription version of this drug or, worse, to make it much more widely available by allowing OTC [over the counter] sales, is a decision that is likely to increase cancer incidence.”
Nonetheless, the FDA did not take prescription Xenical off the market. Instead, they made it more readily available in its doped down version, called Alli.
People Start to Regain Weight
Once They Stop Taking It
Consumers Reports did not give a flattering review of Alli upon its release. “In clinical trials, severely overweight subjects who took the drug for six months lost about 5 pounds more than those taking a placebo… Alli is marketed for short-term use only, and follow-up suggests that people start to regain weight once they stop taking it.”
That is the saddest part of the entire fiasco: Not only does it cause you to leak oil into your underwear… not only will it punish you for having an ice cream cone by soiling your pants in public… not only do three separate lab tests on mice all indicate a connection to colon cancer… not only has the drug been linked to breast cancer… but the drug isn’t even very effective at reducing weight!
Alli’s average success story involves users losing 15 pounds over the course of ONE YEAR.
Why Alli is So Ineffective
Part of the reason it is so ineffective is that it’s not addressing the #1 cause of weight gain: excess starches and sugars. Fat, especially healthy fat, is not what’s making America fat. Fat absorbs very slowly and can be burned off with relative ease. Refined sugar and starches, however, absorb very fast and are converted and stored as fat on the body.
Fat, in fact, can help curb cravings for sugar.
One of the best things you can do for your waistline and your colon is to cut back on starches and sweets. Get a moderate amount of natural sugar from whole fruits.
Not only does sugar pack on the weight, but it can also cause an unnatural balance of harmful bacteria to take over your colon. This results in your colon becoming gaseous, constipated and compacted with fecal waste.
Looking Fat Even When You Are Thin
This leads to a bloating stomach — making you look fat, even if the rest of your body is thin. As these toxic bacteria and waste products build up in your colon, toxins begin to leak out into the rest of your body. Fatigue, insomnia, hormonal issues, depression, bad breath and poor skin can follow.
The real answer to weight loss is quite simple: Eat mainly fresh produce with wholesome proteins and fat. Become more active. Find other ways to make your life sweet. Often, when we over consume on sugary snacks we are trying to fill a bitter void in our life. Adopting a “sweet” attitude, and spending time doing things you love, with people you love, can help kick the emotional dependency on sugar.
Over-eating is another cause of weight gain, stomach bloating and colon toxicity. Even over-eating on healthy foods can be damaging.
A Psychological Trick for
One of the tactics I teach my patients with constipation, is to always have something fun to do after meals. Whether that’s calling a friend, going for a walk, playing with your dog, watching a favourite TV show, reading a book, checking your emails… have some activity more attractive for you than you stuffing your tummy with too much food.
Ignore Alli’s anti-healthful living comments, found on their website: “They set a goal to only eat 600 calories a day and plan to spend five days at the gym. But nobody can maintain that kind of regimen. And who wants to live like that?”
When you put it like that… no one.
But here’s a better way to put it: Who wants to set a 2012 goal to eat colorful produce each day and tasty homemade recipes? How would you like to burn fat off your body by playing an intense, stress-busting sport five days a week? Or taking a brisk daily walk through a wooded trail with a friend?
Fresh food and time out of doors seems far more attractive to me, than nervously isolating myself in front of the TV, eating frozen dinners — afraid to move because a “treatment effect” may take place in my underwear at any moment.
Of course, in front of the TV is probably just where they want us — in case another ad for Alli comes on.
Dr. Karlo Mauro, BSc, BA, MSEd, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
Constipation Relief Strategies For Women