Losing weight is a consistent challenge for people worldwide, especially since modern food has leaned heavily into artificial ingredients and large concentrations of fat and carbohydrates. Obesity is one of the world's top medical issues, with millions of people being overweight due to poor diet and exercise habits.
It has become exceedingly easy for people to gain weight since most of our food is full of empty calories and extremely fattening. This has caused the obesity issue to spike in recent years and promote heart disease, among other health issues. Obesity is such a major problem that it affects every major country worldwide and has spawned an entire industry designed to help people lose weight through various tactics. Unfortunately, the desperation of some people has led them to employ tactics that are bad for their health and will cause more damage than they fix.
One tactic that has grown in popularity is employing a laxative to expedite the weight loss process. At first glance, using a laxative appears to be a fast way to drop extra weight, but it can have serious ramifications for our health. Laxatives take advantage of a natural biological process to help our bodies eliminate waste and are designed to tackle niche issues.
Unfortunately, people have noticed the unintended byproducts of laxatives and concluded that they can be used for more general benefits. Recently, people have begun using laxatives as a shortcut for weight loss. The problem is that this might not be wise since laxative abuse can have serious consequences.
What Are Laxatives?
While most people know what laxatives are, a select few have never needed them and do not know what they are. Laxatives are specialized medications designed to treat and resolve constipation (a medical condition that inhibits our ability to excrete waste). Constipation causes an extremely uncomfortable and painful buildup, making it hard to go through our daily lives. Laxatives are designed to counteract the symptoms of constipation by inducing our waste response and forcing us to defecate.
Ultimately, laxatives are not the most pleasant thing to discuss, but their role in ensuring our bodies are healthy is important. Laxatives come in multiple forms that have different approaches to purging the trapped waste in the body. Fortunately, anyone dealing with constipation can acquire a laxative over the counter, so waiting for a prescription is unnecessary.
There are currently 4 types of laxatives:
- Bulk-Forming Laxatives: Bulk-forming laxatives enhance your waste's weight, stimulating the bowels and reducing the excretion process. These laxatives take 2 to 3 days to work.
- Osmotic Laxatives: Osmotic laxatives take advantage of the water in the body and use it to soften the stool. This makes it easier for waste to pass through the bowel so we can excrete it. These laxatives take 2 to 3 days to work.
- Stimulant Laxatives: Stimulant laxatives stimulate the gut muscles to generate movement through the bowel. This pushes the stool through the bowel and allows you to excrete it properly. These laxatives take 6 to 12 hours to work.
- Softener Laxatives: Similar to osmotic laxatives, softener laxatives soften the stool to traverse the bowel more easily. Unlike osmotic laxatives, softener laxatives provide the necessary water rather than drawing on what is already in the body. These laxatives take 12 to 72 hours to work.
Regardless of the type you use, laxatives are designed to help you excrete waste when your body is not cooperating. Using a laxative to treat constipation (or any conditions that cause constipation) is common. It helps alleviate pressure in the gastrointestinal tract and reduce pain caused by the trapped waste matter. This can be extremely relaxing since the tension induced by constipation can be overwhelming. That said, using laxatives does have peripheral effects on the body that are naturally imposed when you expel waste from your body.
The biggest effect people have begun to notice is that they tend to lose weight after a particularly large bowel movement. As a result, some have begun using laxatives as a weight loss tool to induce these large bowel movements to expedite the process. The question is: Is this healthy?
Can Laxatives Help You Lose Weight?
The idea that laxatives can expedite weight loss has become popular with certain individuals who are desperate to lose weight. The waste we build up before urinating or defecating does represent a small portion of our overall weight, primarily because it was created from the food and water we consume throughout the day. We are meant to pass this waste naturally to remove any indigestible matter from our bodies. As a result, the physical matter stored in our bowels is expelled and no longer contributes to our mass.
Excreting waste matter can cause us to lose a small amount of weight, but most of that weight loss has nothing to do with feces. When we need to use the bathroom, we are also expelling water from our bodies, while the solids are only a small portion of the weight we retain. Water accounts for most of the mass associated with waste matter, so when someone uses laxatives for weight loss, they are expelling water weight rather than actual fat.
Water weight pertains to fluid stored by the kidneys before it gets expelled. We build water weight because we consume too much water or other fluids, and our body does not need the rest of it. If you regularly drink soda or other soft drinks, you are less hydrated but retain more water because of the sodium used to preserve the flavor. Either way, water weight is a component of our overall mass that does not affect our fat content.
Fat is the most important contributor to our weight, with water weight being little more than a secondary factor that moderately increases our mass. Expelling water weight accounts only for a loss of 2 to 4 pounds daily, with little evidence suggesting that it leads to lasting weight loss.
Laxatives can be used to promote additional excretion, allowing us to purge water weight more frequently than we would normally. However, since water weight does not have a lasting impact on our overall weight, purging it with the aid of laxatives is ultimately pointless. Unfortunately, this has not prevented people from abusing laxatives to try and alter their weight. In fact, it has become more common among individuals who are desperate to lose weight quickly despite the negligible impact laxatives have on your weight.
Modern studies estimate that over 4% of the general population engages in laxative abuse for the sake of weight loss. While 4% out of hundreds of millions of people might not seem like a lot, it still accounts for thousands of people who are trying to lose weight in an unhealthy way. Most laxatives add to the water weight loss because they pull water from the body to the stool to soften it and make it easier to expel.
As a result, we end up purging more water than we should, which could cause serious health issues. Furthermore, because water weight is not associated with our body fat content, it comes back almost immediately the next time we eat or drink something. This means any progress you think you made due to laxative abuse is undone, and you end up back where you started. The worst part is that actively purging that much liquid from your body can lead to complications that could further endanger your health.
What Are the Risks of Laxative Abuse?
Abusing laxatives for weight loss can have short-term benefits, but the effects do not last long enough for you to enjoy genuine weight loss. We require hydration to stay alive and preserve bodily functions, avoiding situations where our fluids drain too quickly. Dehydration can kill, but using a laxative seldom leads to lethal cases of dehydration, even when you abuse them for weight loss. Unfortunately, this does not mean you are exempt from potential health issues concerning them.
Part of our body's hydration involves the accumulation of electrolytes, which are minerals carried in the blood, and other bodily fluids that carry electric charges through the body. Without electrolytes, certain bodily functions would cease and can even inhibit our body's ability to retain water for health reasons. Electrolyte depletion is a major health issue, and the more bodily fluids we lose, the less we have until we can recover them.
As we mentioned, laxatives use water in the body to purge waste matter, which includes the electrolytes in the fluid. Using laxatives to treat constipation is considered safe since keeping waste matter trapped in our bodies is painful and can cause other health complications. Using laxatives to try and accelerate weight loss leads to people using them more frequently and purging fluids they desperately need to survive. Overusing laxatives can cause an electrolyte imbalance, which causes:
- Heart Palpitations
- Muscle Aches
In extreme cases, an electrolyte imbalance can be fatal, though you would likely need to use them extremely often to reach that level. Nevertheless, a connection between laxative abuse and electrolyte imbalances can make it hazardous to your health. Studies have confirmed that laxative abuse can cause your electrolyte levels to dip. There was one study involving 24 patients who were overusing laxatives. They all showed significant drops in sodium and potassium levels, essential electrolytes our bodies need to function.
A larger study involving 2,270 subjects discovered that those who used laxatives to prepare for colonoscopies had an increased risk of electrolyte disturbances. Low electrolyte levels can be extremely dangerous depending on how low you let them drop. People who use laxatives to lose weight often use enough to cause some of the more severe side effects of electrolyte imbalances.
Furthermore, laxative abuse has been linked to more serious health issues that can be more dangerous than the imbalance itself. These complications include:
- Gastrointestinal Damage: One study discovered that laxative abuse in anorexic patients caused long-term pancreatic damage. Furthermore, it caused major, harmful changes in their gastrointestinal function.
- Liver Damage: The liver is designed to purge toxins and plays a role in our waste excretion. Overusing laxatives can strain and damage the liver, inhibiting our ability to eliminate toxins.
- Kidney Failure: The kidneys also play a critical role in purging toxins from the body and are essential to our survival. A case study determined that laxative abuse caused catastrophic kidney damage that required the patient to get dialysis treatments to replace the kidney's function.
Laxative abuse might seem harmless and an effective tool for weight loss, but the truth is that it is a dangerous and ultimately useless tactic. Any weight lost by laxative abuse will almost immediately return at your next meal. Meanwhile, your body will be damaged by the constant loss of fluids and the overexertion of your internal organs. While it is possible to lose weight, abusing laxatives is not the correct method to use. Sometimes, a more natural approach is the best option for supplementing a healthy weight loss routine.
Keep it All Natural!
Laxative abuse can be a serious issue that has affected a larger portion of the population than we care to admit. While losing excess weight is an important part of staying healthy, employing shortcuts will only cause more harm. The only effective way to lose weight is to commit to a healthier diet and a regular exercise regimen. You can employ certain compounds as a supplementary tool to jumpstart your weight loss, but relying on them completely will backfire. Ideally, any weight loss supplements you use should be natural and take advantage of your body's natural capabilities.
We at Bella All Natural have always believed that the best solutions in life come from nature. This belief has fueled our efforts to provide natural tools you can use to improve your health and appearance, including weight. One of our main products is a highly customizable Weight Loss Kit that uses natural compounds to enhance your weight loss regimen rather than replace it. We encourage you to visit our website and create yours today, but regardless of your decision, remember always to keep it All Natural!