Some do-it-yourself weight loss techniques are filed under "desperate measures," and laxative abuse is one of them. Taking milk of magnesia, also known as magnesium hydroxide, on a regular basis is risky business, causing chronic diarrhea, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Many people take laxatives to make them feel thinner. However, milk of magnesia won't help with weight loss.
Milk of Magnesia
Milk of magnesia is not a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for weight loss; it is used to treat constipation. MayoClinic.com classifies milk of magnesia as an oral osmotic. This medication absorbs water from your body tissues, making it easier for you to have bowel movements. Magnesium hydroxide is a nonprescription laxative sold in liquid and tablet form; however, prolonged use of weeks or months of use can disrupt bowel function and cause constipation. Milk of magnesia should be used only for its intended purpose -- not for weight loss -- and only according to the label's instructions.
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Laxatives and Weight Loss
Using milk of magnesia and other laxatives for weight loss is futile endeavor. In NOVA Online's "Dying to Be Thin," Dr. Craig Johnson explains that after you eat a meal, between 70 and 80 percent of the calories are already absorbed by your bowels. Laxatives fool dieters into thinking that they're losing weight by causing temporary dehydration. Johnson goes onto explain that dieters see loss of body fluids register on the scale -- not loss of actual body fat. As soon as you drink more fluids, your body fluids are replenished, and the pounds come right back on. However, this sudden "weight gain" causes people who use laxatives habitually to panic. Consequently, they take even more of the laxative, engaging in what Johnson describes as a "vicious cycle of yo-yo fluid balance."
Laxative abuse is often characteristic of a more serious problem: an eating disorder. People who use laxatives tend to be bulimics -- binge eaters -- who take them under the misguided belief that the medication will hurry calories through the digestive tract so they won't be absorbed -- a myth Johnson dispels. People with anorexia or bulimia may use laxatives, as well as diet pills and diuretics, to lose weight, states the American Academy of Family Physicians. Add laxative abuse to starvation, purging and overexercise, and this has a profoundly negative impact on your health. If you take milk of magnesia or another laxative to control your weight, please talk to your health care provider.
Healthy Weight Loss
There's a healthier way to lose weight, results guaranteed. Weight gain is caused by consuming too many calories that your body didn't need. Each pound of spare body fat represents 3,500 calories. Weight gain creeps on -- if you ate only 250 extra calories a day, you'd gain an extra pound every two weeks, or almost 25 lbs. after one year. To lose a pound of week, create a calorie deficit of at least 500 either by shaving calories from your diet or increasing your level of physical activity. The American Council on Exercise points out that 89 percent of people who joined the National Weight Control Registry lost weight and kept it off through a healthy combination of a reduced-calorie diet and exercise.
- Drugs.com: Milk of Magnesia Side Effects
- NOVA Online; Dying to Be Thin; Craig Johnson, M.D. (December 2000)
- MedlinePlus.gov: Magnesium Hydroxide; September 2008
- NationalEatingDisorders.org: Laxative Abuse: Some Basic Facts
- American Council on Exercise: Weight Loss: Diet vs. Exercise
- American Council on Exercise: Putting on the Pounds