Those desperately trying to shed a few pounds often look to diuretics and laxatives to quickly lose weight. Though they may make the scales temporarily tip in your favor, these medications, which are designed to rid the body of excess water and excrement, do not deliver the weight loss one might hope. Using diuretics and laxatives for weight-loss is associated with eating disorders, such as binge eating and bulimia, and can hamper your weight-loss efforts.
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Diuretics, also known as water pills, rid the body of excess water, which causes swelling and bloating. According to MayoClinic.com, diuretics are prescribed for those suffering from kidney problems, polycystic ovarian syndrome and heart failure among other serious illnesses. They remove excess water from the blood, which reduces the pressure exerted on blood vessels. Over-the-counter, or OTC, diuretics are sold at most pharmacies but are not prescription strength. Long-term use and abuse of diuretics can have devastating and irreversible side effects.
People with eating disorders sometimes use laxatives as a weight-loss aid. Laxatives cause the large intestine to initiate peristalsis, which according to Penn Medicine is a series of wave-like muscle contractions that moves food to different processing stations in the digestive tract, beginning in the esophagus and ending in the large intestine. Because laxatives stimulate bowel evacuation, you may observe a weight reduction of a few ounces or pounds. However, this medication affects the portion of the bowel responsible for elimination, which is the large intestine, and does not prevent calorie absorption, which occurs in the small intestine and contributes to weight gain.
Water Weight versus Fat Weight
Water weight can add up to 5 lbs. to your total body weight and can be safely lost with the proper use of a prescription or OTC diuretic medication recommended by your doctor. The American Council on Exercise states that water weight and fat weight are different. Water pills and laxatives temporarily reduce body weight because they eliminate water, not fat, from the body. To see a change in your body composition and observe greater, longer-lasting weight-loss, forgo the diuretics and laxatives. Pair a healthier diet that limits fats and processed foods with at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.
According to The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, using diuretics as a weight-loss aid may lead to dangerous side effects such as headaches, muscle cramps, reduced blood sodium levels, electrolyte imbalance, heart palpitations, arrhythmias and death. Laxative abuse may cause dehydration, stomach ulcers, fluid and mineral imbalances, and bloody stool. Abusing diuretics and laxatives to achieve weight-loss may lead to an increased tolerance, causing you to require more of the drug to experience the same results.