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Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson on Destigmatizing Constipation

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Bathroom show-and-tell sessions on FaceTime. Poop buckets. A toilet that won’t flush. Poop in shoes. Diarrhea at a party after you just saw your ex and his new girlfriend.  

Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson never shied away from a potty joke on Broad City — and five years after the series wrapped, they reunited to take on constipation and the ‘Gut Gap’ as part of a new campaign with Miralax.

Flow talked to the comedians about their work on the campaign, what they hope changes as we have more conversations about our health, and how many of their friends are carrying Miralax packets around in their bags.


Behind the Scenes

It was two women at Miralax who pushed for Jacobson and Glazer to be part of the campaign. “These women… knew how much of a kick we would get out of it, but how much it would resonate with audiences,” Glazer shared with Flow. “And they were right. And we were so excited to see that kind of artistic integrity in this context.”

After signing on, Jacobson and Glazer wrote the Miralax spot — in which they meet up for lunch at one of their favorite spots (obviously), get to talking about constipation (as one does), and then explore the unfair consequences of a sexist society on our mental and digestive health (what else are we talking about these days?). If it felt familiar, that’s because it made use of a tried-and-true set of ingredients from Broad City: an uncomfortable topic, a bold way to take it on, and two conflicting personalities that somehow both remind us of ourselves. 

“I always felt like a part of ‘Broad City’ and the relationship between Abbi and Ilana was like, Ilana feels comfortable talking about most things, and Abbi doesn’t,” Jacobson explained. “That is what I felt in meeting Ilana. It was like, Oh my God, this person is not ashamed of a lot of these things and can talk about them and is pulling me outside of my discomfort.”

“As we were writing this piece and shaping it, we were talking, ourselves, casually, about the product, about our relationship with our digestion, and we’re just naturally cracking up about it,” Glazer recalled. “It’s so funny, reflecting now, to think back on how we found this shape: A thing that’s stigmatized that Ilana is comfortable with, Abbi doesn’t want to talk about, but then it’s always so rewarding to see Abbi blossom and bloom… and that same recipe seems to really resonate here.”

“Kudos to the Miralax team,” Jacobson said. “When they came to us I was like: This is smart. This is really fun. Doing this really makes sense.”


The Bigger Picture

Jacobson and Glazer agreed to do the campaign after reflecting on whether and how it might be a fit for them, with surprising results. “When I was considering it, I did a poll with some friends about who was using the product,” Jacobson said, “and it was an overwhelming amount of people.” Glazer did the same, and found the same.

Jacobson and Glazer are hoping that in the wake of their Miralax spot, these kinds of conversations come more easily, both between friends and on a much larger scale. 

“I’m so proud that Abbi and I can represent women talking to each other,” Glazer said, “but it’s important that in the culture, we’re talking about our bodies more.” 

“We should all be talking about this,” Jacobson echoed. “There’s helpful things that can come from talking about our shared issues. That might mean helping to ease the pain of whatever you’re going through, but also just knowing you’re not alone in going through it.”

Anyone who watched Broad City experienced the feminist praxis of women poking fun at the stuff many of us suffer and shudder through in silence — from period stains on their pants to condoms coming out when they pee. And episode after episode, the show brought us back to a split-screen take on the duo in separate bathrooms, sometimes on the phone with each other and sometimes just quietly eating a box of chocolates. 

“We have been systematically separated from our own bodies and our own minds—women in particular, Black and brown people in particular, trans people, gender fluid people,” Glazer explained. “Talking about our physical health… is so important for people to reunite with their own sense of self, reclaim their bodies, and to not find any part of your body gross. Even the parts that leave your body are not gross! They come from you, and they’re part of a process. And, certainly, laughing about it softens the blow. No pun intended.”

“I was really excited to be a part of something that was sharing information that a lot of people might feel shame around,” Jacobson said. “It felt really informative and helpful—in my personal life and to be spreading this awareness and destigmatize constipation, and why women are more prone to be.”

What is the ‘Gut Gap?’

Miralax coined the term “The Gut Gap” after a brand-commissioned survey found that women are facing both a stress epidemic and a constipation epidemic — and that they’re likely connected, since the gut is where 90 percent of serotonin is created, and the digestive system is connected to the brain. (They’re sharing their key findings at TheGutGap.com.)

You may be tempted to ask: “Even my gut is sexist?” Not quite — but the world is. And minor and major stressors put on women due to gender imbalances and gendered pressures are causing a lot of discomfort, physically and mentally.

“The link between mind and body has been well documented,” Dr. Jessica Clemons, a board-certified psychiatrist who was also a medical consultant for the campaign, said in a press release. “Stress activates the body’s fight or flight response, which can disrupt the digestive system, leading to constipation, among other issues. Women, in part due to societal pressures and burdens, but also hormones, are particularly susceptible to stress-induced constipation.”

According to the data, 85 percent of women are routinely stressed: nearly half are stressed on a daily basis, and 84 percent are stressed at least once a week. Compared to men, women are also twice as likely than men to experience constipation, and one in three women reported being constipated on a weekly basis, and 13 percent of women reported pooping less than three times a week.

“It doesn’t surprise me that women take on more stress and that it impacts our bodies more,” Glazer said. “But working with the brand and actually writing this piece with Abbi, and thinking about it as a real lived-in experience in our bodies, it actually did surprise me that women take on stress, and it impacts our physical health in tangible ways.”

Miralax’s data was collected from Millennial women — it was based on responses from 2,000 Americans between ages 27 and 42 — but broader data bears out the notion of a gender stress gap. Women respondents to the APA’s October 2023 Stress in America survey reported experiencing a higher average level of stress than men and being less likely to be able to quickly recover from it, and research also finds that women are more likely to internalize their stress, which can impact their physical and mental health, and more likely to experience chronic stress. 

Hormones are tied up with women’s experiences with stress, too — women in menopause, for example, may feel more stressed and anxious due to low estrogen levels, and chronic stress can trigger hormone imbalances. 

Stress Relief

The women Miralax surveyed reported that some of their favorite ways to relieve stress were listening to music, exercising, watching television, talking with friends and family, and laughing. (In other words: Watching that Miralax ad each day may just keep the Miralax packet away.) 

Dr. Kellyann Niotis, a preventative neurologist at Early Medical, also recommends taking a trip — ideally, one longer than three days — to break the stress cycle.

And of course, if you’re constipated, we know one company that’s ready to help.

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