Laxatives and diuretics are two types of medications that can be used when the body needs to get rid of extra fluid or stool. Although these medications usually work well to prevent high blood pressure, excess fluid buildup or constipation, overuse may cause negative effects on the body. Certain types of vitamins, which are essential for normal body function, may become depleted with excessive laxative or diuretic use.
Laxatives are typically used to prevent constipation in an effort to regulate bowel movements. They work by prompting the large intestine to move and push waste out of the body. The body has already absorbed much of the fat through the small intestine at this point, and the waste is a combination of water, electrolytes, fiber and minerals. Some people abuse laxatives as a form of weight loss, hoping that chronic use after meals will result in fewer calories being added to the body after a binge. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, frequent laxative abuse only succeeds in promoting dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and vitamin deficiencies.
Laxatives and Vitamin Depletion
Vitamin deficiencies may develop with chronic diarrhea that occurs because of the frequent use of laxatives. Vitamin A is important to support the immune system and is a factor in healthy eye tissue, reproduction, bone growth and cell division. A deficiency of vitamin A can lead to blindness and an increased susceptibility to infection. Excessive laxative use can also result in a deficiency of vitamin D, which could lead to joint pain, muscle weakness and hearing loss. Vitamin E depletion may result from overuse of laxatives, which cause symptoms of dry skin and hair, eczema rash and easy bruising.
Diuretics are medications that are prescribed to remove excess fluid from the body. Sometimes called water pills, diuretics cause the kidneys to pull excess fluid from the bloodstream, where it is excreted through the urine. They are typically prescribed to treat heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure or high blood pressure. Diuretics cause an increase in urine output, and excessive use of diuretics may cause changes in electrolyte imbalances or vitamin deficiencies. Because of this, your physician may check your blood levels and you may need to take supplements to restore vitamins that have been depleted.
Vitamin Deficiencies and Diuretics
B vitamins, also called water-soluble vitamins, are those that are taken in through diet but are not stored in the body. Overuse of diuretics can cause deficiencies in some of these water-soluble vitamins. Thiamine, or vitamin B-1, supports the immune system and plays a key role in cell metabolism. Thiamine deficiency causes depression, muscle weakness and memory loss. Folic acid can also be depleted through diuretics, which may lead to anemia. Women who are pregnant and who take certain kinds of diuretics may become deficient in folic acid, which could lead to birth defects in their babies.