Laxatives in small and infrequent amounts may help regulate your bowel movements and should not damage your kidneys or other organs, according to MayoClinic.com. If you use laxatives to lose weight, take them frequently or in high doses, you could damage parts of your body and in extreme cases even die. Your safest bet is to not take laxatives without talking to your doctor or another health care professional.
Effects on Kidneys
If you take too many laxatives, your kidneys will pass much more water, electrolytes and minerals than usual, warns the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Ultimately, you can suffer from kidney stones or kidney failure. The main cause of kidney stones is dehydration. If you experience severe pain, blood in your urine or abnormal-colored urine, you may have kidney stones and need medical assistance.
Besides the potential damage to the kidneys, excessive laxative use can cause a physical dependence, according to Go Ask Alice! As laxative abuse continues, the colon requires larger and more frequent doses to create normal bowel movements. Some people become so dependent on laxatives that they cannot have bowel movements without taking laxatives, which is a potentially serious medical problem.
Additional Potential Complications
Another major concern associated with laxative abuse is electrolyte imbalance, which not only affects the kidneys but other organs such as the heart, warns Go Ask Alice! You may also suffer from malnutrition after misusing laxatives. Other potential health problems include weakness, seizures and confusion. If you take other medications, you risk minimizing the effect of them when you use laxatives. Elderly people are at special risk of suffering problems related to using laxatives, especially when it comes to reducing the effects of other medications.
If you want to prevent constipation and also protect your kidneys and other bodily organs, try other solutions rather than taking over-the-counter laxatives, advises the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Drink at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water daily. Regular exercise and going to bathroom right after meals also helps promote regular bowel movements. Also ingest more fiber through fruits, vegetables, wheat bran and oats. If you must take laxatives or supplements, turn to fiber-rich solutions such as Metamucil and Fibercon or laxatives with the crushed seed psyllium.