Today, many people are going to dieting extremes to lose weight and to keep up with society's image of beauty, which more times than not equates with thinness. Some are even experimenting with using laxatives to lose weight as a quick solution. Instead of choosing plans for long-term healthy weight loss by exercising and eating healthy, some people are attempting to lose weight as quickly as possible, even if it means using unhealthy methods to do so. Unfortunately, however, many people are unaware that laxative abuse comes with numerous, unpleasant consequences and can even result in death.
Frequent bowel movements caused by laxatives tend to give people a false sense of being cleansed. While some quick weight loss may be obtained, most of the pounds shed are from loss of water weight. Once the laxative use is stopped, most, if not all, the weight lost will be regained fairly quickly.
Not only are laxatives not the ideal way to permanently lose weight, they can be very unhealthy for the body and can create many unpleasant side effects. With laxative use, some people do not realize that they are also cleansing themselves of important nutrients and calories, affecting their natural fat absorption, and upsetting their electrolyte levels. Other serious possible consequences from taking laxatives to lose weight are:
1. Stomach Cramps
Laxatives can cause painful stomach cramps. Because of this, it is important to choose a gentle laxative that specifically states that is does not cause cramps.
Laxatives can cause nausea in some people, which is an uncomfortable feeling that can last for up to 3 days after taking a laxative.
Vomitting can occur with laxative use because the medication in the laxatives upset the lining in the stomach.
Diarrhea is a common side effect of laxative use. This is dangerous because it can lead to dehydration.
5. Rectal bleeding
Frequent laxative use can cause rectal bleeding. This is a side effect of frequent bowel movements and/or diarrhea.
Fainting can occur with laxative use. This normally happens when a person becomes very weak from diarrhea and dehydration.
Laxative use can cause dizziness. Again, this side effect is usually caused by dehydration.
8. Electrolyte Imbalance & Dehydration
Electrolytes are important to the functioning human body. Laxative use causes loss of important electrolytes such as potassium, calcium, and sodium. A long-term electrolyte imbalance can lead to an electrolyte disorder. Some of the symptoms of an electrolyte imbalance include muscle fatigue, mental changes, cramping, irregular heart beat and even death. Also, chronic diarrhea creates a loss of water which can lead to dehydration, which is a life threatening situation. Dehydration can cause weakness, blurry vision, fainting, kidney damage and death.
9. Damage to Intestinal Functioning
Consistent use of laxatives as a method for dieting can cause damage to the gastrointestinal tract, which can be permanent. Chronic use of laxatives can lead to a loss in the proper functioning of the tract. The body becomes habituated to the laxative doses. Once laxative use is halted, the intestines can slow down and lose their ability to remove food from the body. This, in turn, can lead to severe constipation. Also, the nerve endings which surround the large intestines are changed by chronic laxative use, causing them to no longer respond to stimulation. This creates a cycle of requiring larger doses of laxatives to create a bowel movement.
Laxative abuse to control body weight, especially in young adults, is often a sign of a serious eating disorder. Normally, this form of extreme weight loss is coupled with other extremes, such as purging, excessive exercise or restricting calorie intake. If this is the case, appropriate care from a health care provider or psychologist should be sought immediately.