WTF is ‘budget Ozempic’? Experts give HUNGER the worrying lowdown

#GutTok is racking up billions of views on Tik Tok, and its contents could lead to huge health implications.

At this point, you’ve probably heard the word ‘Ozempic’ more than you have your own name. Considering the drug was only put on the market for the first time in 2018, its meteoric rise since that period has been astronomical, writing itself into Internet folklore forever. And as heroin chic continues to make its return with protruding collar bones and sunken cheeks, it seems everyone wants in on the weigh tloss drug, so much so that TikTokers are now concocting their own ‘budget Ozempic’.

So, what exactly is budget Ozempic, you ask? Well, it’s laxatives. Seriously, that’s it. Take a peak (if you dare) over at the aptly named #GutTok – which has racked up over a billion views – and you’ll find a slew of users promoting taking laxatives, particularly US brand Miralax, on a daily basis. In fact, the trend has grown to such heights that it’s led to a shortage in laxatives in the States, as reported by the New York Post.

“What we’re calling budget Ozempic is the polymer polyethene glycol 3350, or PEG 3350 for short,” the founder of G&M Healthcare and General Practitioner Dr. Grace Hula tells HUNGER. “When you swallow a drink with PEG 3350, the polymer isn’t absorbed by the body. Instead, as it passes through your intestines, it draws water to it, making your faeces much more watery. Because it draws more water out of your body than you put into it from the drink, your weight goes down. That is, it just makes you dehydrated.”

This means that any weight loss is likely to be short-lived; when you next drink, your body will retain more of the water to replace what was lost. “To have any significant and sustained weight loss, you’d have to take a lot of laxatives every day. And at most, you would only lose a few kilograms,” says Dr. Hula. 

Dr. Hula also explains that laxatives have a completely different effect on your body in comparison to Ozempic. “Ozempic is similar to a family of hormones in your body called incretins, which have a number of actions that control both blood sugar levels and weight. For example, they slow how quickly food is absorbed from the stomach and decrease appetite, both of which help with sustained weight loss. It’s a much more controlled and reliable way to lose weight as opposed to laxatives, but of course, Ozempic comes with negative side effects, too.”

Still, despite being far from an ideal weight loss method, Miralax, in particular, is touted as a miracle powder, and many users claim they can’t live without it. In one video, a self-proclaimed “girlie with digestive health issues” films herself dumping a packet of the laxative powder into her smoothie, which she calls the “Miralax Mango Miracle” – which makes laxatives sound pretty delicious, to be fair. “This is gonna cure all my problems,” she says as she blends the powder into her fruity drink.

A slew of commenters shared that they, too, have a go-to Miralax-infused drink, including one user who enjoys it with “lemonade water enhancer,” while another “found cranberry juice masks the taste and texture perfectly” and a third opts for the powder blended with “frozen bananas, PB2 powder and chocolate almond milk.”

There’s no denying that this trend is inherently depressing. Watching a number of young people brag about their laxative concoctions, all intending to get skinny fast and cheaply, without much knowledge of the dangers, makes for difficult viewing.

“Taking laxatives, especially in large doses and for prolonged periods of time, can make you incredibly dehydrated,” Dr. Hula tells us. This can lead to you feeling dizzy, lightheaded, headaches, dry mouth, lips and eyes. The concentration of electrolytes in your blood, such as salt, may be too high (known as hypertonic blood serum). Hypertonic blood serum can affect the shape of your red blood cells, making it harder for them to carry oxygen around your body. And in extreme cases, this can lead to death.”

Alongside those repercussions, If you use laxatives for an extended period of time (over a period of weeks or months), then this could even lead to withdrawal symptoms, including constipation, bloating, weight gain and fluid retention.

Given the potentially severe health implications, it’s best to steer clear of #GutTok. No matter how delicious your laxative cocktails may be, perhaps it’s best to go for a jog instead.

“Overall, if you’ve been struggling with weight loss, then laxative products are not a safe and effective solution. Any weight loss you experience will be temporary and may put your health at risk. Safer and more effective solutions are available. Eating healthily and exercising regularly are important first steps for anyone who wishes to lose weight. Otherwise, your GP or local pharmacist can help you with both lifestyle changes and medication options to help with weight loss,” concludes Dr. Hula.

WriterChris Saunders