Laxatives for Constipation

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Quick Guide19 Constipation Myths and Facts

19 Constipation Myths and Facts

Are laxatives safe to take for weight loss?

Laxatives are not intended as weight loss supplements. It may seem as if you lost weight once a laxative has taken effect and your constipation is relieved, but by the time stool reaches the large intestine (colon), most of the fat and calories from your food has already been absorbed by the small intestines. What you do lose is water, electrolytes, minerals, and indigestible fiber. Any "water weight" you may lose comes back as soon as you drink fluids.

Laxative abuse occurs when people frequently take laxatives to lose weight. Often, laxatives are taken after binge eating in an attempt to purge calories. This is part of an eating disorder called bulimia. There are serious health consequences to laxative abuse, including life-threatening complications. Laxatives deplete the body of needed electrolytes and minerals, which the body needs. This can lead to malfunctions of your vital organs. Dehydration caused by laxative abuse can lead to tremors, fainting, kidney damage, and even death.

When people use laxatives consistently, dependence can develop and the colon stops working the way it should, and it can take larger and larger doses of laxatives to result in bowel movements. Chronic abuse of laxatives can increase the risk of developing colon cancer.

If you are abusing laxatives in the hope of losing weight, or if you think you may be addicted to laxatives, talk to your doctor to get help.

REFERENCES:

About Kids GI; International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. "Laxatives." Updated: March 2016.
<http://www.aboutkidsgi.org/laxatives.html>

American Pregnancy Association. "Laxatives During Pregnancy."
<http://americanpregnancy.org/is-it-safe/laxatives-during-pregnancy/>

Babycenter.com. "Drug safety while breastfeeding." Updated: Dec 2015.
<http://www.babycenter.com/0_drug-safety-while-breastfeeding_8790.bc>

National Eating Disorders. "Laxative Abuse: Some Basic Facts."
<https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/laxative-abuse-some-basic-facts>

OneGreenPlanet.org. "Skip the Chemical Laxatives: These Naturally Cleansing Foods Work Much Better." Updated: May 22, 2015.
<http://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/skip-the-chemical-laxatives-these-naturally-cleansing-foods-work-much-better/>

Sood, M.R., MD. "Prevention and treatment of acute constipation in infants and children." UpToDate. Updated: Oct 19, 2016.
<https://www.uptodate.com/contents/prevention-and-treatment-of-acute-constipation-in-infants-and-children>

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/10/2016

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