A form of body-image disorder, laxative abuse can become habituated in time, can result in serious intestinal harm as well harm the kidneys and heart, and in severe cases - can be fatal. Laxative abuse is also a very ineffective means of weight loss.
Laxatives are abused in an effort to rid the body of consumed food quickly, often after a binge, before calories can be absorbed fully into the body. Laxatives help a person to feel lighter and emptied of problematic food, and since weight does go down temporarily after a purge, abusers feel that their system is working.
But although you may be lighter in pounds on a scale immediately afterwards, almost all weight loss is simply water lost - as the colon draws out water from the body in response to the effects of the laxatives. Pounds lost are immediately regained when water or other liquids are again drank, and absorbed into the body.
Laxatives work by stimulating nerve endings in the large intestine, nerve endings normally stimulated by the bulk of fecal mater passing through the colon. Consumed food is processed almost entirely in the small intestine. Food passing through the small intestine is not accelerated by laxatives, and as such using laxatives has little influence on the number of calories ingested into the body.
Although you feel lighter after a laxative purge, you retain almost all eaten calories. Laxative purging does not work as intended.
The Risks of Laxative Abuse
Habitual use of laxatives can seriously damage several organs. The colon itself can become tolerant to the effects of laxatives. Laxatives work by stimulating the nerve endings of the colon, and after repeated laxative use, these nerve endings can become resistant to this artificial stimulation. Ever greater amounts of laxatives are needed to achieve the same effect, and in extreme cases, sufferers may lose the ability to have a bowel movement without the aid of laxatives.
Dehydration and Organ Failure
As weight lost after a laxative purge is almost entirely water drawn from the body, without quickly replenishing this water, a laxative user gets dehydrated. Many laxative abusers also refrain from drinking much water after a purge, eager to sustain pounds seemingly lost.
Dehydration causes electrolyte imbalances. Electrolytes regulate essential bodily processes, such as muscle contractions, including cardiac muscle contractions. With severe dehydration, there is a risk of heart stoppage, as well as muscle spasms, fainting, organ damage and even death.
Laxative abusers also seem more prone to irritable bowel syndrome and, constipation, colon cancer and general infections.
Laxatives become very dangerous if used with regularity – and since these drugs do not really aid in weight loss, their use becomes a senseless possible tragedy.
Laxative abusers become habituated to purging with laxatives, and many need professional help to learn to overcome their disorder. Laxative abuse is very serious, can cause health problems or death, and intervention should occur as soon as is possible.
Page last updated Sep 16, 2011