Between 2010 and 2015, at least 40% of adults stated that they had tried to lose weight. And since obesity is such a huge issue in the Western world, 2020 might well have more than 40% of people trying to get slim. But not everyone can do it the ‘hard way,’ by dieting and exercising.
Some people will always ask for alternatives, no matter how silly they might sound to you and me; that’s why you’ll often see the infamous “Do laxatives help you lose weight?” question pop up in your search engine from time to time.
So, do laxatives help you lose weight, or is it just another urban myth? Well, in order to understand that, you first need to know a little bit about laxatives in general. Moreover, you’ll need to explore how the human body works and what it is that makes us obese in the first place. This text will attempt to answer all of those questions and more.
What Are Laxatives?
Very broadly speaking, a laxative is something that will help you loosen your bowels and allow you to pass the stool. In fact, people tend to prank others by tricking them into drinking something with a laxative in it, simply to see the victim soil themselves.
And while I do genuinely find that funny, I have to advise against doing it. There are some dangerous health risks to drinking an unprescribed drug, even if it is a laxative.
Usually, doctors will prescribe this type of drug to you if you have constipation. Laxatives either stimulate your bowel movements or soften the stool so it can pass easily.
Unfortunately, there are thousands of people out there who think that loosening bowels will somehow lead to weight loss. Those would be the same people who google Do laxatives help you lose weight and who, after a while, end up in the Emergency Room.
Various Types of Laxatives
Not all drugs related to bowel movements work in the same way. In fact, you’d be surprised to learn that there are different types of laxatives out there. So let’s list them out.
• Stimulant laxatives (they help by speeding up the digestive tract)
• Bulk-forming laxatives (they move undigested and add bulk to your stool)
• Saline laxatives (they help draw water into the small intestine to promote a softer stool)
• Osmotic-type laxatives (they help the colon retain more water to promote frequent bowel movements)
• Lubricant laxatives (they coat both the stool and the intestine walls in order to promote loose bowel movements)
• Stool softeners (they help promote more water absorption in the stool)
Well, Do Laxatives Help You Lose Weight or Not?
The short answer is no, they do not. And really, anyone who knows a little about the human body and losing weight can tell you that. But I think it’s instructive to dig a little deeper here, since a lot of people still can’t seem to realize these simple facts.
However, you’ve learned that some people tried using shortcuts, like tapeworms or becoming breatharians. And one of those alternatives appeals to you — Do laxatives help you lose weight, because it seems that they do!
The reasoning behind a ‘laxative diet’ is simple enough:
• The more of this drug you take, the more you poop
• The more you poop, the more weight you lose
• And, cyclically, the more weight you lose, the more of the drug you take.
However, the weight you end up losing with this type of medication isn’t body mass. It is, in fact, water.
If you want to be technical, this type of ‘weight loss’ is only temporarily effective. You’ll lose some weight rapidly with the water coming out of your system, sure. But you’ll regain that weight just as quickly; all it takes is a good meal and a few liters of water, and you’re back to Square One. And as depressing as that might sound, that’s not the worst of it.
Laxative abuse happens when someone overuses this medication, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be related to weight loss. For example, people who think that they don’t have regular bowel movements might also be abusing laxatives.
If you’re one of those people, just remember that there is no such thing as a ‘daily bowel movement.’ You can have as little as one movement in three days or as many as three movements a day.
Of course, the majority of people who abuse this drug are usually the ones that want to get fit. Extreme cases include sufferers of bulimia nervosa. In addition to vomiting, they might want to get rid of extra food by taking a drug meant for regulating bowel movements.
However, most of the cases simply include uninformed men and women who want to lose their weight fast and with low effort.
Symptoms of Laxative Abuse
All substance abuse symptoms are more or less similar, no matter what you’re taking. So, if someone you know is overusing laxatives, pay close attention for the following signs:
• Laxative intake directly before or after a meal
• Rearranging personal arrangements and obligations around toilet time
• Going to the bathroom right after a meal
• Hiding away the meds
• Lying about med intake
• Using more and more meds as time goes by
• Ritualistic or obsessive behavior during or after toilet time
• A sense of euphoria after a bowel movement
• Getting the meds from many different stores
• Poor body image and/or personal hygiene
• Negative emotions (anxiety, depression, etc.)
• Cramps or stomach pains
• Shaking, shivering, and sweating
• Nausea and frequent vomiting
• Heart problems
• Blood appearing in the stool
• Blood pressure problems
• Headaches and vertigo
• Muscle atrophy
Laxative Abuse Safety Risks
Of course, a laxative will work just fine if you use it properly, i.e. as a medication for constipation. However, overusing it for weight loss, or any other reason, can lead to several dire health hazards.
As you saw, laxatives will either affect your intestines or the stool itself. Whatever the case might be, the stool will be softer and you’ll be able to pass it easily. But when you abuse the drug, you risk constantly having a runny stool, which can lead to diarrhea.
Somewhat paradoxically, taking too many laxatives can cause constipation as well. Some studies have shown that your body can actually adapt to the laxative, and over time the drug will no longer have any effect on you. Furthermore, both constipation and diarrhea can actually alternate during laxative abuse.
Some of the bowel medication, like osmotic laxatives, actually takes water from the body and guides it into the intestine in order to soften the stool. In small doses, that’s perfectly fine, since you will replenish that water quickly.
However, if the intake is too large, you’ll lose too much water and you’ll start to dehydrate. Furthermore, these meds can cause diarrhea, which in and of itself causes further dehydration in humans.
There are a few symptoms of dehydration you should look out for when taking laxatives. They include:
• Decreased urination
• Dryness of mouth
Poor Intestinal Function
There are bowel meds out there that stimulate gut muscles. During constipation, your gut might need a little help pushing the stool forward and breaking it down, so a laxative is perfectly fine. However, when your stool is normal, your gut is performing normally, and anything you do to stimulate it will cause med dependency.
In other words, your gut will not be able to pass the stool unless you take a laxative to stimulate it.
In addition to dependency, laxatives can also cause a bloody stool. Once you overuse them, you run the risk of harming the gut lining. And that’s not exactly what you want when trying to answer the Do laxatives help you lose weight question.
Imbalance of Electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals in your body that contain an electric charge. They help your cells and tissue perform normally, keeping you healthy and kicking. The most common ones found in human bodies are:
There are more than a few laxatives that help the body absorb high levels of gut electrolytes such as phosphorus and sodium. Others will reduce the level of some electrolytes in the blood.
By abusing these products, you can cause an electrolyte imbalance. This condition can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, muscle weakness, confusion, and, in some extreme cases, even seizures and coma.
Even if, by some chance, you don’t go through any of the health problems above, there’s always a risk of regular substance addiction. Laxative addicts behave as any other addict might; they crave more of the substance they take and their whole life starts to revolve around it.
Not only can that lead to extreme mental and physical problems, but it can also severely damage your social life and relationships. A lack of proper social support can make your recovery difficult.
Treating Laxative Abuse
Abusing bowel movement medication is by no means easy, and former addicts can testify as much. However, there is a way to recover from it. I’ll briefly summarize it here:
• Make sure to talk to a medical professional, like a doctor, a nutritionist, or a dietitian
• Get rehydrated and start a healthy dietary regimen
• Talk to a therapist so you can deal with the psychological issues that come with addiction
• Support from your friends, loved ones, and family is crucial
The road to recovery will be difficult, but with the right nutrition and lots of support, you’ll be back on track in no time. Make sure to go to regular check-ups on a yearly basis, just to make sure you don’t relapse.
Do Laxatives Help You Lose Weight: Proper Weight Loss Strategies
Now you know the definitive answer to the Do laxatives help you lose weight conundrum. You’re more than convinced that you will not be using this medication for anything other than constipation from this day forward. But how can you lose weight? What is the best way to approach it?
As someone who has also been trying to lose weight, I’d like to present to you my handy guide to dieting and exercise. It is by no means the best solution out there, and if you can, talk to a professional about this subject. Sometimes, people try to get fit even if they aren’t overweight, which can lead to various health problems and complications.
The first thing you need to do is balance your diet out. Calculate what your daily calorie intake is and adjust your meals accordingly. In addition, make sure to avoid certain foods that have a high amount of trans fats or gluten. Personally, I always have a breakfast that’s high in protein, since it keeps me feeling full and eating less throughout the day.
Some of the foods you might want to either decrease or outright stop eating include:
• Ice cream
• Alcohol (especially beer)
• Salty snacks
Some people believe that you have to have a difficult exercise regimen to maintain a good figure and lose weight. However, you would only need an extreme regimen if you want to have a toned, muscular body. If you simply want to lose weight, all you have to do is change your lifestyle a little bit and make it more ‘mobile’.
Raise Your Cardio
Running, jogging, hiking, or even walking can greatly benefit your body. Simply set yourself a goal (eg. a distance you want to run per day) and stick to it. In a matter of two months, you’ll begin to see the first signs of change.
It’s also a good idea to alternate between running and walking. Moreover, you can try cycling or swimming in addition to walks and hikes. Do anything that will get the heart rate up and you will be shedding pounds in no time.
Simple Morning Stretches
When you wake up, try doing stretches for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t need to do anything major, a simple 10-step regimen will do.
Morning exercises are a great way to get your body to move. But they also have the extra benefit of waking you up and getting you energized for the rest of the day. By doing morning stretches, you will reduce the risk of pulling a muscle, straining your back, or generally harming yourself.
Work Out at Home
People tend to complain about gym memberships being high and use it as an excuse not to exercise. However, you don’t need fancy equipment in order to work out. You can do it at home, with next to no budget at all.
Here are a few tips on how to exercise at home in order to lose weight:
• Install an app on your smart device that keeps track of the exercises you do
• Talk to a medical professional about the best kinds of exercises you can do (push-ups, pull-ups, etc.)
• Set a routine and stick to it
• Buy a jump rope or make a DIY bench press
• Make your own DIY dumbbells
Everyday Activities That Help
Believe it or not, there are lots of activities that you do every day which can help you lose weight. I’ll list a few, and you let me know if they sound familiar:
• Walking your dog
• Taking a stroll with your family or friends
• Carrying heavy objects such as shopping bags or buckets of fruit
• Moving furniture around
• Going up and down the stairs often
• Sleeping 8 hours a day
• Deep breathing of pure, unpolluted air
• Maintaining a decent personal hygiene
• Stretching after hard physical labor
Do Laxatives Help You Lose Weight: The Conclusion
So, do laxatives help you lose weight? I think you’ve gotten the point by now. Remember, there are no quick and easy solutions to getting that fit body. If you want to look your best, you’ll have to put the effort in and commit to it in the long run.
However, always remember to be smart about it — consult professionals about weight loss and don’t do anything that would put additional strain on your body.