Skip to main content
Accessibility  |  Contact  |  Privacy  |  Terms of Service

Laxatives - Too Many Too Often Dangerous to Health

  • Published: 2012-11-11 : Author: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Examines the dangers of abuse of laxatives to lose weight which can create a dependence for bowel movements resulting in severe health conditions.
Laxatives - A type of medicine that can help you empty your bowels if you are having trouble going to the bathroom. There are four types of products for preventing or treating constipation: Bulking agents; Stool softeners; Osmotic laxatives; and Stimulant laxatives.

Main Document

Overuse and abuse of laxatives can lead to dependence, where the body gets used to being on laxatives. The gut and bowel relax and become unable to move or hold the contents. The body can no longer produce a bowel movement without the help of laxatives.

Each year, Americans spend more than $700 million on laxatives. A recent study showed that the United States has the highest rate of laxative use compared to several other countries. Still, many people do not know how to use laxatives correctly. One study showed that as many as 40% of people use laxatives incorrectly. At least 15% of diarrhea cases are due to incorrect laxative use.(1) Laxative abuse can sometimes be found among people with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder.

How often you have a bowel movement varies, but a "normal" frequency ranges from as many as three bowel movements a day to about three a week. Your body ordinarily needs no help to have bowel movements. But a poor diet, physical inactivity, pregnancy, illness or some medications can disrupt normal bowel function and cause constipation.(2)

Laxatives that quickly produce a bowel movement, such as senna (Senokot) or bisacodyl (Dulcolax), are the most abused and dangerous. They stimulate the nerves in the colon. This causes the muscles of the intestines to contract and push down the contents of the bowel. Over time, the laxatives keep the colon empty. The colon cannot send a signal so that a normal bowel movement can occur. The muscles of the bowel become weakened because they are not being used. The body gradually gets used to needing laxatives to produce a bowel movement.

Oral laxatives may interfere with your body's absorption of some medications and food nutrients. Malabsorption is the inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestines, and involves failure to absorb certain vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. The condition is associated with a number of diseases that affect the intestines or other areas of the gastrointestinal tract.

Laxatives can interfere with the absorption of certain medications, including antibiotics, blood thinners and medications for the heart and bones. If you take any medication, consult your pharmacist or doctor about a possible interaction with laxatives.(3)

Some weight-loss products often marketed as "dieter's or slimming teas" contain a variety of strong botanical laxatives (Cassia species (senna), Cascara sagada (botanical name Rhamnus purshiana)) and diuretics. Adverse reactions that have been reported to FDA as associated with these products are characteristic of those seen in laxative abuse syndromes, and include severe electrolyte imbalances leading to cardiac arrhythmia and death.(4)

Bulk laxatives, such as psyllium (Metamucil) and methylcellulose (Citrucel), are safe treatment options. They make the stool more bulky by absorbing water. For example, psyllium (Metamucil) is safe because it is a natural form of fiber.

The best treatment for constipation is food high in fiber or laxatives that create a more bulky and softer stool. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids every day, and exercise regularly.

Laxatives are not usually recommended for children unless advised by a doctor and some types of laxatives may not be safe to use if you have a bowel condition such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Consult your physician for questions and concerns regarding laxative use, and seek immediate medical help if you experience bloody bowel movements, rectal bleeding, severe abdominal cramps, dizziness, weakness or unusual fatigue. Take laxatives only as directed.






Similar Topics

1 : Undetected Raccoon Roundworm Parasite Infections : University of California - Santa Barbara.
2 : Association Between Gut Microbes and Brain Structure in People With IBS : University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences.
3 : Human Intestinal Worms - Deworming and General Information : Disabled World.
4 : Overview of Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) : Disabled World.
5 : Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD): Symptoms, Causes & Forms : Thomas C. Weiss.
From our Digestive System Disorders section - Full List (42 Items)

Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.

Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.

Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.

List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.

Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.

1 : vEAR: Why Can I Sometimes 'Hear' Silent Flashes When Viewing Animated Gif's?
2 : New Jersey Digital Art Program for Individuals with ASD
3 : 2018 Lime Connect Fellowship Program for Students with Disabilities
4 : Epihunter Classroom - Making Silent Epileptic Seizures Visible
5 : Prostate MRI Reveals More Treatable Cancers and Reduces Overdiagnosis


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.