Are Laxatives for Weight Loss Good or Bad?

Laxatives refer to substances used or treated to stimulate bowel movements. Generally, there are three substances that cause loose stools and stimulate bowel movement. It is important to recognize that these three substances are laxatives, aperients, and purgatives.

The topic we will discuss here is laxatives. Do laxatives contribute to weight loss?  Could there be natural weight loss laxatives?

It is worth mentioning that laxative abuse is becoming increasingly popular today.  It is prevalent on college campuses and among people suffering from eating disorders. Is this a good sign? Are there any dangers associated with it?  Keep reading.

What are Laxatives?

Laxatives are medicines or drugs used to facilitate or stimulate the bowel evacuation of undigested food. Laxatives loosen up stools by inducing bowel movements. This results in constipation relief.

Today, there are many Americans suffering from constipation. According to a study It is estimated that 16% of the adult population in the United States suffers from chronic constipation. The majority of these people are older than 60 years of age.

Laxatives are often prescribed for patients suffering from constipation. This includes constipation that causes pain, infrequent bowel movements, or bowel movements that are difficult.

There has been a lots of emphasis given to using laxatives for weight loss.  It has been believed that laxatives are one of the most effective methods for losing weight. How true is this? Read on to learn the real truth about using laxatives for weight loss.

Are laxatives safe and effective?  What are the risks and benefits of laxatives? These are bigger questions that people worry about.

Types of Laxatives and their usage

It is interesting to note that there are many different types of laxatives. However, they are all associated with digestive tract constipation relief and not with weight loss. Let us look at these types of laxatives:

Bulk-forming laxatives

It is an insoluble fiber that passes undigested through the intestines. As it passes, it absorbed water and bulked up the stool. Drink plenty of water while increasing the laxative intake to keep yourself hydrated. Psyllium (Ispaghula), polycarbophil, methylcellulose, and carboxymethylcellulose are all examples of bulk laxatives.

Osmotic-type laxatives

Effective in promoting frequent bowel movements. It is also capable of retaining more water in the colon. Laxatives of the Osmotic type are used for patients who are unresponsive to bulk laxatives. Examples of osmotic laxatives are saline laxatives, poorly absorbed sugars, and polyethylene glycol.

Stimulant laxatives and Dosage

These stimulant laxatives speed up the bowel movement of the digestive tract.  Unlike other laxatives, stimulant laxatives work within hours of treatment.

The dosage size of the stimulant laxatives behaves differently in the digestive tract.  A lower dosage restricts sodium and water from absorption into the colonic lumen.  A high dosage increases the secretion of water and sodium into the colonic lumen.

Yet, the use of stimulant laxatives is discouraged by people with eating disorders.

Only a single dose is normally recommended because of its fast reaction.  The single dose is primarily for temporary constipation relief.

Examples of stimulant laxatives are: –

  • docusate
  • bile salts
  • phenolphthalein
  • bisacodyl
  • sodium picosulfate
  • castor oil
  • senna
  • cascara sagrada
  • aloe and,
  • rhubarb

Stool softeners

It makes stool get loosened and softer.  It happens by allowing the stool to absorb more water into it. Loosened and softer stool passes through the intestines easily without congestions.

Examples of Stool softeners are docusate calcium (Surfak) and docusate sodium (Colace). Docusate is a laxative. Doctors may prescribe docusate laxatives for constipation.

Lubricant or Emollients laxatives

Lubricant laxatives coat stools and let them pass through the digestive passage easily.  It also coats the walls of the intestines effectively making easier bowel movements.

A good example of a lubricant laxative is mineral oil.

Saline laxatives

Saline laxatives draw more water into the small intestine or small bowel.  This act increases bowel movements

Examples of saline laxatives are:-

  • magnesium preparations (Phillips’® Milk of Magnesia)
  • citrate salts (Royvac®)
  • sulfate salts and,
  • sodium phosphate

Do laxatives help lose weight?

We explained the types of laxatives available above.  You would have noticed and may also be surprised no mention of weight loss.  The most common point mentioned was only the bowel movement. Because laxatives are bowel movement stimulants only. Not a weight loss solution.

Many people believe taking laxatives is one of the ways of weight loss.  Unfortunately, it is not true according to various studies and research.  Weight loss from laxatives is a temporary effect. It is caused by the loss of water in the body.  The weight loss is the weight of the water loss.

At stimulated bowel movements, the food moves faster in the digestive tract.  So, people tend to think of fewer chances to absorb calories into their bodies. 

But in reality calories and nutrients are already absorbed from the small intestine. Laxatives absorb the water content only.

Hence, taking laxatives gives a feeling of an empty stomach after a meal.  The feeling you get is you are losing weight because of the emptiness.

Actually, there is no weight loss effect but only a weight gain.  You may think that laxatives take care of limiting the calorie absorption factor.

What is Laxatives Abuse

Laxative abuse is an attempt to stop absorbing excess calories into the body. In other words, using laxatives as a method for weight loss. Repeated doses of laxatives in order to try and maintain body weight or stop weight gain.

The misuse of laxatives for weight loss is a dangerous habit.  In fact, laxatives do not cut or reduce fat from your body. It only reduces the water weight and also makes you dehydrated. Often end up with various health complications.  In some cases is life-threatening.

Dehydration from Laxative intake

You do lose weight after a regular intake of laxatives because of the absorption of water.  So what you lose is the water weight of your body. As a result, you will continue to lose weight only for a short period of time.  Weight loss may occur up to 2 Kgs and then it stops there. Actually, this is no healthy weight loss that you really wanted.

This is really unhealthy and very bad for your health.  Regular intake of laxatives leads to dehydration. You can now imagine the end results. You are inviting unwanted digestive disorders and unwanted other health complications.  Certainly, taking laxatives is not the right thing for weight loss.

All you need to know about Laxatives before Using them for Weight Loss

Can I lose weight with laxatives?  No, you cannot.  The main purpose of the use of laxatives is for treating constipation relief.  What you lose is the water weight of your body and not flab.

Are there many types of laxatives? Yes, there are many types of laxatives (mentioned above).  Each one works differently. They are used to help to flush out stool from the digestive tract. Preventing causing constipation. 

Do Laxatives help in Fat Loss? No never. It starts to make you lose water weight.  Misleading you to have a feel of you have a weight loss.

Is it safe to use Laxatives for a longer period of time?  No. Certainly not according to experts and studies.  Even if you are suffering from constipation it is not recommended to use more than two days

What are the side effects of using laxatives for weight loss

The side effects of prolonged use of laxatives are so disturbing.  There here like to reiterate not to use laxatives for weight loss. It is so dangerous for your health.

Laxatives Do Cause Dehydration

Regular use of laxatives for weight loss causes dehydration. It absorbs water in and from the surrounding tissues of the digestive tract.   As mentioned earlier you will lose only the water weight of your body and not the fat.

The impact of dehydration on your body makes your body cells dry down.  This results in all functions of the cells slowing down. It affects the overall brain functions and metabolic rate of your entire body.

Overuse of laxatives Leads to Kidney Failure

Prolonged intake of laxatives makes your kidneys work overtime. In most cases the excess work makes the kidneys become weak faster.  It affects the normal functions of the kidneys and can lead to kidney failure.

Promotes Electrolyte Imbalance due to loss of body Fluids

Electrolytes are minerals such as magnesium, potassium, chloride, sodium, and calcium.  People do lose these minerals with the loss of body fluids. Electrolyte balance is crucial for the proper functions of our body. Functions such as digestion, ingestion, absorption, and intermediary metabolism.

The loss of body fluids is normally caused by diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, or heavy sweating.  Also, in cases of liver or kidney problems. Loss of body fluids leads to electrolyte imbalance in our system.

In a similar way, too much laxatives intake makes you lose body fluids from our body.  The laxatives absorb more water from our bodies and lead to electrolyte imbalance.

Liver Damage from excess intake of laxative

Irrespective excessive intake of herbal or chemical laxatives can cause liver damage.  Here is a case report indicating laxatives contribute to the liver damage

Overuse of Laxatives contributes to Gastrointestinal Tract Damage

The eating disorder specialists say laxatives cause permanent damage to your Gastrointestinal Tract.  Just be aware of it.

Laxatives Abuse causes Rhabdomyolysis

Regular use of laxatives causes muscle injury and leads to rhabdomyolysis.  Weaken muscles lead to the death of muscle and create many complications in our system.

Depression Due to Laxatives Abuse

All the above health conditions tax too much of our physical and mental health.  It finally influences our proper brain functions and moods.  It leads to a depressed state of mind.

How to stop laxatives abuse

Are you started using laxatives for weight loss? or Are you seeing the symptoms of laxatives abuse?  Then immediately get in touch with Eating Disorder Specialists.  It is better to take their guidance than try to do it yourself. 

Stopping laxatives abuse is not just stopping the intake of laxatives.  Laxative impact on your body needs to be assessed properly before starting treatment. 

Eating disorder specialists recommends the natural reregulation of your bowel movements.  I may call it using natural laxatives. Those are as simple as eating foods that are rich in dietary fiber.  

Dietary fiber-rich food is freely available and accessible to anyone. The dietary fiber-rich food is whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.  Actually, these natural laxatives, I mean dietary fiber health benefits are enormous.  You may regret now why you got into laxatives abuse instead of opting for dietary-rich food.  Dietary fiber-rich food also contributes to a healthy way of weight loss.

Drinking lots of water to recover from the laxatives symptoms is very important. Because you have already lost body fluids and water from your body from laxatives abuse.  Drink 8 glasses or more water at regular intervals every day.

You may also be advised by the eating disorder experts to do mild exercises, yoga, and deep breathing. It stimulates natural bowel movements.  Meanwhile, make the weakened muscles get stronger.

Walking, yoga and deep breathing exercises help correct your depression and anxiety problems.

What is treating laxative abuse symptoms?  It is more of re-regulating your body and mental conditions back to normal. 

Laxatives Abuse for weight loss Symptoms

Laxative abuse symptoms can be classified into two categories.

Symptoms of Change in Behavior from Laxative Abuse

  • Abnormal moods (euphoria) after bowel movements caused by laxatives.
  • Going through the mental health conditions of depression, anxiety, or feeling ashamed.
  • Purchasing more and more laxatives from stores and hiding them at home or office.
  • Increasing the intake of laxatives pills or powder before or immediately after meals.
  • Not talking or being open with others about your laxative intake.  That you are trying to stimulate bowel movements and expected weight loss.
  • Spending more time in restrooms after meals and snacks.
  • The negativity of your body style or shape. As a result, wearing baggy clothing hides the shape of your body.
  • There are cases who try self-harm and cause injury to themselves.

We wish to reiterate that do not harm yourselves by taking laxatives for weight loss.

Physical and Mental Symptoms of Laxatives Abuse

  • Dehydration
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Severe abdominal cramping
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches or migraine
  • Constipation
  • Depression – A biological, psychological, and distressing mental disorder
  • Anxiety caused by worry and fear
  • Excess sweating causes body fluids loss
  • Blood pressure fluctuations
  • Essential Tremor – Shivering or shaking
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased dependency on laxatives, and increased doses
  • Blood in the stool (caused by rectal bleeding)
  • Feeling faint and lightheaded
  • Increased feelings of muscle weakness

Tips on the Best Ways to Lose Weight

Firstly, laxatives should not be your choice for a weight-loss method.  Laxatives abuse for losing weight ends you up in unwanted health complications.  There are many healthy ways to lose weight. Here is a quick list: –

  • Eat a nutritious balanced diet with more vegetables and fruits
  • Exercise everyday
  • Increase physical activities
  • Know your BMR and plan your diet.
  • Avoid eating simple carbohydrates
  • Choose food low in calories
  • Eating high protein breakfast helps

What are the Natural Laxatives for Weight Loss?

This is the biggest question anyone asks having known the impact of laxative abuse.  Laxatives mean as said before it is a bowel movement stimulant.  Mainly, used for treating constipation.   Actually, you cannot expect to have weight loss.

There are many natural laxatives that provide a similar impact on bowel movement.  Easing the constipation conditions. Actually, one cannot expect to have weight loss from laxatives.

Weight loss is possible with fiber-rich foods that provide better bowel movements.  So, we could say that the only natural laxatives that assist in weight loss are fiber-rich food.

Natural laxatives Food and Bowel Movements Stimulants

Fiber-Rich Foods: Grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds.  See a comprehensive list of fiber-rich food with calories and grams per serving.

Kefir: It is rich in probiotics. Probiotics are good gut bacteria with many health benefits. It boosts digestive health.

Castor Oil: It provides a laxative effect because it contains unsaturated fatty acids.  Castor Oil induces bowel movement.

Senna: This is an herb plant and is a natural laxative.  The Sennosides content assists in relief from constipation.

Olive Oil: Olive oil intake give an effect of lubrication over the tectum.  As a result, helps easier evacuation of undigested food. It also improves bowel movements and helps in constipation.

Aloe Vera: The gel from the Aloe Vera is in use to treat constipation.  Its effect on laxatives works well for faster relief.  

Summary

There is no such thing called weight loss through laxatives.  It is only a myth getting popular among young age groups. It is a water loss and not a weight loss.

Taking laxatives for weight loss is Laxatives Abuse.  It is dangerous behavior and causes health complications. Complications begin from dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.  Eventually, electrolyte imbalances lead to major health concerns.  Sometimes it can be life-threatening.

Always look for a healthy way of losing weight and not through laxatives.  Laxatives are meant to increase bowel movement and prevent or cure constipation.

Are you already into laxative abuse for weight loss?  Then, consult an eating disorder specialist immediately for the right reversing action.

So be cautious about laxatives for weight loss. Now you know better it is good or bad.

13 Sources

Noble Home Remedies relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations for accuracy and reliability while avoiding tertiary references. Our editorial policy provides more information about how we ensure our content is accurate and up-to-date.

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