Are Laxatives for Weight Loss Good or Bad?

Laxatives mean using or treating to stimulate bowel movements. There are three substances that increase bowel movements and loosens stools. These three substances are laxatives, aperients, and purgatives. 

Here we are going to talk about laxatives. Do laxatives assist in losing weight?  Are there natural laxatives to lose weight?

It is worth mentioning that laxatives abuse to lose weight is getting momentum today.  This momentum is high among college campuses and with people having eating disorders. Is this a good sign? Is it a dangerous habit?  Keep reading.

What are Laxatives?

It is a medicine or a drug used to smooth the way for or to stimulate bowel evacuation of undigested food. In other words, create bowel movements to loosen up stool. Then get relief from constipation.

Many Americans are affected by constipation today.  A survey reports, 16% of the American adult population suffers from chronic constipation.  One-third of this population are people older than 60 years of age.

Often, laxatives are being used to treat patients with constipation. Especially constipation that is painful, infrequent or difficult bowel movements.

Having said that there is a lot of weight has been given for use of laxatives for weight loss.  It is believed that using laxatives is one of the fastest ways to lose weight. How far is this true? Keep reading to understand the real truth about the use of laxatives for weight loss.

How safe and how effective using laxatives?  These are much bigger questions that bother people’s minds.

Types of Laxatives and their usage

Interestingly there are many types of laxatives.  But all connected to treating digestive tract constipation relief and not weight loss.

Bulk-forming laxatives

It is an insoluble fiber that goes undigested through the intestines. As it passes through it keeps absorbing water and bulk up the stool.

Ensure drinking more water to keep yourself hydrated when increasing the laxative intake.

Examples of bulk laxatives are the psyllium (Ispaghula), polycarbophil, methylcellulose, and carboxymethylcellulose.

Osmotic-type laxatives

Effective in increasing bowel movement frequencies. It also capable of retaining more water in the colon.

The patients unresponsive to the bulk laxatives are tried with Osmotic-type 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, the stimulant laxatives work within hours of treatment.

The dosage size of the stimulant laxatives behaves differently in the digestive tract.  Lower dosage restricts sodium and water from absorption into the colonic lumen.  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 to get loosened and softer.  It happens by allowing stool absorbing 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 pass through the digestive passage easily.  It also coats the walls of intestines effectively making easier bowel movements.

A good example of 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 mentioned about weight loss.  The most common point mentioned was only the bowel movement. Because laxatives are bowel movements stimulants only. Not a weight loss solution.

Many people believe taking laxatives is one of the ways for weight loss.  Unfortunately, it is not true according to various studies and researches.  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 fewer chances to absorb calories into our bodies. 

But in reality calories and nutrients are already absorbed from the small intestine. Laxatives absorbing 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

Laxatives 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 in various health complications.  In some cases is life-threatening.

Dehydration from Laxative intake

You do lose weight after 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 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 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 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 of your body makes your body cells to dry down.  This results in all functions of the cells to slow 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 of excessive intake of herbal or chemical laxatives can cause liver damage.  Here is a case report indicating laxatives contribution 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 lead 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 trying to do it yourself. 

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

Eating disorder specialists recommends you for 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.

Drink 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 laxatives abuse symptoms?  It is more of re-regulating your body and mental conditions back to normal. 

Laxatives Abuse for weight loss Symptoms

Laxatives 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 to hide the shape of your body.
  • There are cases who try self-harm and causing injury to themselves.

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

Physical and Mental Symptoms from Laxatives Abuse

  • Dehydration
  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Severe abdominal cramping
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches or migraine
  • Constipation
  • Depression – A biological, psychological and distress mental disorder
  • Anxiety caused by worry and fear
  • Excess sweating causing 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 of bowel movement.  Easing the constipation conditions. Actually, 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 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 servings.

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

Castor Oil: It provides a laxatives 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 in use to treat constipation.  Its effect on laxatives works well for faster relief.  


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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