If you're trying to lose weight, laxatives won't help. While they may increase the number of trips you make to the bathroom, laxatives don't prevent your body from absorbing the calories in the food you eat. And taking laxatives for anything other than their intended purpose may lead to other health problems. If you're frustrated with your weight and your struggles to lose, consult your doctor before resorting to unsafe practices, like laxatives.
Types of Laxatives
Laxatives are over-the-counter medications used to treat constipation. There are many different types of laxatives, and each one works in a different way to help you go. Bulk-forming laxatives contain fiber and work by adding more volume to your stool, making it easier for them to pass. Stool softeners and osmotic laxatives add liquid, which softens the stool to make it easier to go. Stimulant laxatives act on the muscles of your intestines, helping to push stool out of your body. Unless your doctor says otherwise, you shouldn't take laxatives for more than a week, according to FamilyDoctor.org.
Laxatives and Weight Loss
People take laxatives for weight loss because they believe it helps them get rid of calories and makes them feel thin by eliminating waste, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. While laxatives do cause you to lose some water weight, however, they won't trigger long-lasting weight loss. In fact, your body responds to being dehydrated by retaining water, leading to weight gain. Additionally, laxatives don't help your body get rid of calories or prevent your body from absorbing the calories from the food you eat. And when you take laxatives habitually, your body becomes dependent. So while you may have started to take laxatives to help you lose weight, you may need to continue to take them to help you have bowel movements.
Dangers of Laxative Use
In addition to becoming habit-forming, laxatives taken for weight loss can lead to other health concerns. In addition to the water, you also lose electrolytes and minerals when you take laxatives, which may lead to an imbalance of these nutrients in your body. These nutrients are responsible for the proper functioning of your muscles, nerves, heart and digestive system, and without the right amount may lead health issues such as tremors, vomiting, irregular heartbeat or kidney failure. Overusing laxatives also wears away the mucus lining your colon, which makes you more susceptible to infection. It can also lead to irritable bowel syndrome, which is a chronic condition that affects your intestines, causing a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.
Diet and Exercise to Lose Weight
When it comes to losing weight, there's no easy solution. To drop those unwanted pounds, you need to make a change to how you eat and exercise to create a negative calorie balance that forces your body to burn fat for fuel. Make a low-cal plate by filling half with fruits and veggies, one-quarter with healthy whole grains such as brown rice or quinoa and the other quarter with lean proteins such as chicken or fish. And limit your intake of high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods such as soda, cookies, candy, fast food and fried foods.
When it comes to exercise, all movement counts. Plan for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day, such as a fast-paced walk or a low-impact aerobics class. Burn a few extra calories here and there by taking a stretch-and-walk break every hour throughout the day, using the stairs instead of the elevator and taking the long way to the front entrance of a store or building.
- Barnard College: The Facts About Laxatives
- National Eating Disorders Association: Laxative Abuse: Some Basic Facts
- FamilyDoctor.org: Laxatives: OTC Products for Constipation
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Definition and Facts for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?