New warning over common remedy for toilet troubles

Here's a friendly reminder that just because something is easily available... and just because you've used it for years without a problem... doesn't mean it's safe.

That's true of any number of treatments, from painkillers to the cold remedies that are so popular this time of year.

But that's also true of some things you might never suspect would cause problems.

Every day, millions of Americans turn to common over-the-counter treatments to help with a condition they're often a little too embarrassed to mention to a doctor.

It's constipation -- and if you're plugged up, you might have some milk of magnesia on standby to help get things moving again.

For most folks, it's a relatively safe option (although boosting fiber and taking probiotics are much better choices).

But there's also a dark side to milk of magnesia, as a new warning shows how it can pack a potentially deadly risk, especially if you have kidney disease.

It could hurt you... and maybe even KILL you.

The report finds that a 73-year-old man with kidney disease went into cardiac arrest after taking too much milk of magnesia to help with some toilet troubles.

His heart rate plunged, and only advanced cardiac life support saved him.

As it turned out, his weakened kidneys weren't able to handle the excess magnesium. His blood levels of the mineral jumped by FOUR TIMES the normal limit.

The patient recovered after emergency dialysis, but it could have easily gone the other way, especially if he wasn't able to get help in time.

The man in this case had end-stage kidney disease, but any level of kidney disease could lead to at least some degree of risk from using too much milk of magnesia.

And that's where the bigger problem comes into the picture: Many older folks are in the early stages of kidney disease and don't know it.

You could even be one of them.

There are two steps you can take right now to protect yourself from this and similar risks.

First, if you haven't had your kidney function checked lately, make it a point of doing so during your next physical. Early diagnosis is the key to preventing it from progressing.

Second, reassess everything you're taking every now and then... especially the “standby" meds you might turn to without thinking much about them.

Over time, your risks change. Something you tolerated when you were younger might be a little tougher on your body today.

Work closely with a holistic medical doctor who can help get you off potentially risky medications and onto safe natural options for everyday ailments such as constipation.

If you're in the San Diego area, I can help. Make an appointment to see me here at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.

Not in Southern California? I'm also available for advice by phone. Call 855-DOC-MARK to schedule a consultation.

And don't forget to connect with me on Facebook!