The rate of obesity in the United States is at an all time high. People are searching for a magic pill to make the process of weight loss simple, easy and painless. Unfortunately there is no magic pill. Weight goes ‘on’ the same way it comes off. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. If you eat less than you burn, you lose weight. Simple. (1)
But while the concept is simple, the practice is not. In this high stress, fast-paced world many of us forgo exercise in order to spend time at the movies with their children or sitting on the sidelines watching their children play sports. Grabbing a hamburger at the local fast food restaurant has taken the place of sit down dinners, complete with vegetables and salad. It’s no wonder that obesity is at an all time high!
Some, in desperation, have turned to laxatives. Laxatives and weight loss are not synonymous. Laxatives and weight loss are not healthy or safe. The majority of weight that is lost when using laxatives is from fluid and the health dangers are significant. (2)
The use of laxatives in an attempt to lose weight is often abused. It seems to be common with people who have an eating disorder.
Let’s look at what happens in your body when you take laxatives. After the pill is ingested, the active ingredients target the cells of the large intestines. They irritate the cells and encourage the large intestines to empty, many times earlier than the body is ready.
While the food is in the large intestines the body is reabsorbing some of the fluid before it passes as waste. If you evacuate your bowels too soon you run the risk of dehydration.
The calories from the food you eat are actually absorbed in the small intestines and laxatives don’t affect the small intestines. This means that while the intent behind taking laxatives is to decrease the amount of calories absorbed by the food, the only thing these medications do is cause the large intestines to evacuate AFTER the small intestines has extracted all of the necessary calories.
After losing fluid from an early bowel movement the body compensates by retaining fluid. So laxatives cause an initial dehydration which makes the person ‘feel’ thin, but within hours the body compensates by retaining the remaining fluid and making the person ‘feel’ bigger.
The body needs fluid to remove wastes and toxins, so retaining fluids will make you feel bad because you can’t get rid of all of the waste products normally evacuated.
At this point you might be tempted to take more laxatives to get rid of the full feeling again. It’s a vicious cycle that sets you up to be prone to irritable bowel syndrome and colon tumors. Prolonged use of laxatives can also lead to cramping, bloating, water retention and the added problem of withdrawal.
The use of laxatives to promote weight loss is not an option! You are endangering your health and won’t be moving toward achieving your goal.
You can stop the abuse of laxatives using several steps. Unless they are prescribed by a doctor you should stop using laxatives immediately. This may be easier said than done and may require the help of a mental health professional.
Drink at least 6-10 eight oz glasses of water each day. Not caffeine drinks or alcohol or juices, just water. Include some physical activity each day to encourage regular bowel function.
Eat regularly and spread it out over at least 3 meals. Include lots of fruits and vegetables, which will improve your success rate for weight loss and improve normal bowel function. Keep a record of your bowel movements so they can be monitored. If you find you are constipated for more than 3 days call your doctor – do not treat yourself! Your colon will react differently than a normal colon after it has been abused by a laxative regimen.
Laxatives and weight loss don’t mix. They don’t work. But you can stop the vicious cycle and move on to a more healthy and fit way of losing weight for life!
(1) Centers for Disease Control: Adult Obesity Facts
(2) Columbia University Health; Go Ask Alice: Laxative Abuse – Any Side Effects?