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Dangers of Using Laxatives for Weight Loss

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder
A clean bathroom. Using laxatives for weight loss can lead to dehydration and electrolyte disturbances.

Losing weight has become a primary health concern for millions of people. If you have a few extra pounds, losing it can provide innumerable benefits to your body. Lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, more energy, improved mood - it really is a no brainer. Unfortunately, at times, the desire to hurry progress leads some people down inappropriate paths. Using laxatives for weight loss is one such path; they are an unhealthy method for losing weight.

Prevalence of Laxative Abuse

Laxative abuse, as well as other unhealthy weight loss methods such as skipping meals and excessive exercise, was reported by 22% of the women and 17% of the men in a Division of Epidemiology, University of Minnesota, School of Public Health study designed to examine weight loss behavior. [1]

A University of Illinois study found that girls with body image distortion were over 4 times more likely to engage in extreme weight loss behavior, including the use of laxatives. [2]

Laxative abuse is a present weight-loss method on college campuses, particularly among individuals with eating disorders. It's a dangerous habit that can lead to fluid imbalance, colonic changes, or allergic reactions. [3]

The Dangers of Laxatives and Weight Loss

Laxatives are for occasional use and are to be used in correlation with appropriate intestinal or bowel needs. Laxative abuse leads to digestive system complications, dehydration, and electrolyte disturbances. The weight being lost is water weight and that can lead to dehydration. Dehydration slows down the metabolism, which will actually hinder your weight loss efforts. [4]

Once food has entered the lower digestive tract, most of the calories have already been converted into energy bloodstream absorption. Despite the quick action of some laxatives, some individuals incorrectly believe they can avoid the absorption of calories if diarrhea is induced; this is false. Furthermore, dehydration can affect the renal system in such a way that weight gain immediately follows discontinued laxative use... often leading to more laxative use. [5]

Do Safe Alternatives to Laxatives Exist?

Using laxatives for weight management is a bad idea, but what's the alternative? Folks, I've said it before and I'm saying it again. The best weight loss plan is a balanced and deliberate process that includes eating healthy, nutritious foods- especially plenty of water and fiber, and engaging in exercise and physical fitness. Get plenty of rest, provide your body the nutrients it needs, consider a quality weight-loss supplement, and, on purpose, achieve a lifetime of realistic results! Losing weight should help your health, not compromise it.

References (5)
  1. Neumark-Sztainer D, Sherwood NE, French SA, Jeffery RW. Weight control behaviors among adult men and women: cause for concern? Obes Res. 1999 Mar;7(2):179-88.
  2. Liechty JM. Body image distortion and three types of weight loss behaviors among nonoverweight girls in the United States. J Adolesc Health. 2010 Aug;47(2):176-82. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.01.004. Epub 2010 Mar 20.
  3. Vanin JR, Saylor KE. Laxative abuse: a hazardous habit for weight control. J Am Coll Health. 1989 Mar;37(5):227-30. Review.
  4. Sansone RA. Complications of hazardous weight-loss methods. Am Fam Physician. 1984 Aug;30(2):141-6.
  5. Roerig JL, Steffen KJ, Mitchell JE, Zunker C. Laxative abuse: epidemiology, diagnosis and management. Drugs. 2010 Aug 20;70(12):1487-503. doi: 10.2165/11898640-000000000-00000. Review.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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