Laxatives for Weight Loss – Are They Worth the Risks?

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Weight loss is a hard, slow process, that takes up a lot of patience and willpower from you. Some people just don’t have enough patience to go through the whole process, with the appetite change, slowly adapting body and the nagging feeling of hunger they get.

When they snap, they start looking for alternatives to lose weight quickly and with minimum efforts, and, unfortunately, the alternatives aren’t always safe and efficient.

One of the most famous alternatives of a diet is using laxatives. Laxatives are medications used by people who have constipation, as it aids in stimulating bowel movements and easing the passage of stool.

They became a popular way to lose weight when people started believing that using laxatives aids in increasing the frequency of movements in the bowel, therefore allowing a quick, effortless weight loss plan.

But the question you need to ask is, Are they really that effective? And is it safe to use them for weight loss? You’ll find out in this article!

First, you should know all the different types of laxatives that people use.

Types of Laxatives

  • Stimulant Laxatives

This type of laxatives is very widely used due to its rapid reaction, as it works efficiently within 12 hours of swallowing it.

They work mainly by speeding up the movement of the digestive tract. After its name, it stimulates the contraction of your intestinal muscles.

Unfortunately, It’s not so wise to use them in the long run, because they can be a major cause of diarrhea and cramps.

Examples: Castor Oil, Aloe Resin.

  • Osmotic Laxatives

This type of laxatives works by attracting water into the bowel, which causes stools to soften. Their efficiency depends on a person’s colon transit time, which is the time taken by any substance to move through your colon. Some could last only three hours, some could go on for three days.

Also, the type of osmotic laxative could have an effect on the time it takes to work. Unfortunately, they have a negative side effect that can’t be ignored, as they sometimes cause imbalances in the electrolyte as they draw out nutrients, causing dehydration.

If you have to use them, it better be after medical advice, because they can’t be used for long-term, with some exceptions like magnesium. Make sure to drink a lot of water also and keep your body hydrated, as water will be needed to increase the frequency of bowel movement.

  • Bulk-forming Laxatives

This type of laxatives works by going through the intestines without getting digested. They absorb water and add more bulk to the stool. They also go by the name of fiber supplements.

This type of laxatives is the only type that you can take every day, as it is the safest and gentle type, mainly because they aren’t digested by the body.

When the fiber absorbs and continues to hold on fluids, they form soft stool, stimulating the intestinal muscles to naturally make contractions. This causes movements in digestive contents, allowing much easier movement in the bowel.

Luckily, they don’t have negative side effects like diarrhea or cramping, so doctors advise adults to take them in the case of constipation, but be careful, because if used for long-term, they sometimes cause bloating and more constipation. If you want to take them safely, drink enough water.

If you have had colon surgery before, or you’re suffering from colon diseases, then bulk-forming laxatives aren’t the right choice for you.

Examples: Inulin, Chia Seeds.

  • Bowel Lubricant Laxatives

This type of laxatives works by coating the colon and the stool so they remain soft as stool goes through the intestine, thus easing bowel movements. They normally take from 8 to 24 hours to work, and they can be used for the long-term.

Beware, not all oils have the quality you need. Normally, the best types and those that are cold-pressed and unrefined.

Luckily, this type of laxatives isn’t hard to get, as you can easily put it into your daily diet.

Examples: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil.

After you have learned about the different types of laxatives, it’s time to ask the important questions.

Are Laxatives Suitable for Losing Weight?

Laxatives suitable for weight loss?

This is an important question to ask, as people tend to abuse laxative uses under the complete belief that they are very efficient and quick to get rid of some pounds. If you’re still asking if using laxatives for weight loss is right, it’s definitely not!

Laxatives normally work on your large intestine a while after the food has been absorbed by your small intestines, which means those calories are already in your system and there is no way to get them back.

The main job of a laxative is, as we mentioned before, to help you if you have constipation. Whatever is excreted out of your body contains a tiny amount of fats or calories. Nearly 80% of your feces is pure water, with the remains of indigestible fibers and other wastes, and those have no effect on the fat content found in your body at all.

People think that as long as they’re taking more trips to the toilet, their extra pounds are being magically flushed out, but the sad fact is that what’s being really flushed out is just water.

When you stop taking the laxative, the weight you think you lost comes back on, and what’s even worse is that taking a lot of laxatives can cause you a lot of health problems in the long run.

We know that losing weight quickly and with minimum effort sounds very appealing, but those products that promise to get rid of your pounds in no time are mostly sold to trick you.

Now it’s time to talk about the severe side effects of using Laxatives for weight loss.

Downsides of Laxatives

They Dehydrate Your Body

Dehydration affects your overall health and mental activity

Dehydration is the most common negative side effect of using laxatives.

Like we said before, laxatives work mainly by attracting water from other tissues into the intestines, which results in water loss through the stool. If you do not work on compensating for the water lost, your body will suffer from dehydration.

Dehydration is an unhealthy state, as it can cause a headache, much less urine output, fatigue, dizziness, and severe thirst.

They Cause Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes are dissolved substances found in your body fluids, and they are essential for your cells and tissues to function normally. Common electrolytes are chloride, magnesium, phosphate, calcium, sodium, and potassium.

It something tampers with the balance of those electrolytes, dangerous side effects start to appear, like seizures, or in even more severe cases, coma.

Unfortunately, laxatives can cause a loss in some of the important electrolytes, leading to an electrolyte imbalance. Studies have shown that using those medicines cause very significant alterations in the levels of sodium and potassium in the body.

If you want to know how you can detect electrolyte imbalance in the body, look for the symptoms. It normally causes headaches, thirst, fatigue, heart palpitations, and sometimes muscle aches.

Laxatives Can Affect Your Dependency

Laxatives are relatively safe for short-term use, but we can’t say the same for long-term use. People fear they might cause dependency, especially the stimulant type, as it works by stimulating the movement of the intestinal tract, to cause a smooth bowel movement.

However, you shouldn’t worry very much, because most reports of laxative dependency are unreliable.

Despite this really happening in some cases, where people developed tolerance or became dependant on stimulant laxatives, there isn’t much evidence to prove this is a possible side effect.

More studies are needed to assess the impacts of long-term laxative use and the risk of leading to dependency.

Less Famous Possible Side Effects of Laxatives

In addition to causing all of the above, using laxatives for weight loss has also been associated with other negative side effects.

  • Rhabdomyolysis: One study proved that the wrong use of laxatives may induce rhabdomyolysis, which is a serious condition resulting from muscles dying and releasing their contents into your blood. This means your kidneys cannot efficiently remove waste and concentrated urine.
  • Gastrointestinal damage: A small study showed that some healing anorexia patients suffered changes in gastrointestinal function and some even suffered long-term pancreatic damage.

However, these are not as common as the effects listed above, and more studies are needed to prove them.

What do Laxatives Actually Do to Your Weight?

Actual effects on weight

Due to the fact that more than 5% of the general population uses laxatives for weight loss, it’s necessary to clear out some facts.

We’re not going to lie and say laxatives don’t help in increasing weight loss, because they do, but the results are temporary and they don’t last for long.

Most types of laxatives pull water from your body into your intestines, letting stool absorb much more water so it would have a smooth passage out of the body. This method causes you to lose only water weight, you will not lose any real weight.

Studies showed that using laxatives is not effective in controlling your weight, as they measured the daily food intake of 30 patients who suffer from bulimia nervosa (An eating disorder that involves people having large meals, then preventing any weight gain by self-induced vomiting or laxatives) When putting in comparison with other ways to lose weight, scientists found that this way is the most ineffective.

To this day, there hasn’t been any study to support the idea of using a laxative to lose weight.

In conclusion, while laxatives can help you temporarily lose extra water weight, they can’t be used for effective long-term weight loss.

Sadly, a laxative that would help you lose fat hasn’t been invented yet.

It’s very possible to notice the number on your scale going down after using laxatives, but it’s never because it got rid of your fats. Like we said before, that’s merely a loss of water. Losing weight has much more to it than just losing extra water in the body.

They definitely shouldn’t be used for long-term purposes.

The only laxatives that are made to be used for long-term use are the bulk-forming types, and they weren’t designed to help with weight loss. Stimulant laxatives, although more common than bulk-forming, shouldn’t be used for long because they are very harsh on the body, as your bowel can get used to them, so you can suffer even more constipation. If losing weight is your goal, your plan will backfire with those laxatives, as more waste will be laying in your intestines, causing the number on the scale to go up.

How Should You Lose Weight?

Alternative weight loss solutions

If you are trying to lose weight via an unhealthy method like laxatives or starving your body, you better stop right there because there are much safer, more efficient ways that don’t risk your health at all.

Here are some ways:

  • Pack up on vegetables and fruits: They are the perfect food to pack your body with, due to their low caloric content, and rich fiber content. Replacing junk food with those healthy foods will help you lose weight safely.
  • More movement: More trips to the gym may be very beneficial if you’re planning to lose weight, doing heavy workouts two or three times per week will help you.
  • Eat less: If you can control your appetite and you want a very simple solution to losing weight, you can go for eating smaller portions of food.
  • Increase protein intake: Adding proteins to your meals, especially breakfast, will help reduce your appetite and make you eat less throughout the day.
  • Eat fewer sugars: It’s no secret that sugar contains a lot of calories that you don’t need, so cutting it will help with your weight loss plan.


When people begin to get desperate for something, the results are never pleasant because they tend to act recklessly. Using laxatives for weight loss is very reckless and can lead to serious health conditions that you can’t overcome.

It’s okay to give your body time to lose its extra fats, everything related to your body needs time so it can be done in a healthy manner.

Going on a diet and starting to workout more is tiring, and can be overwhelming in the beginning, but the results are going to keep you motivated, and most important of all, you will be safe from any unnecessary health problems.

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