In the fight to lose weight, people have sought different methods like surgery, weight loss pills, body wrapping, weight-loss diets, and others turn to laxatives. But Do laxatives for weight loss work?
Well, in this article we discuss what laxatives are, how they work, whether laxatives can help you lose weight, and if not, what are the alternative measures that can help you lose weight.
What are laxatives?
Laxatives are medications that stimulate bowel movement or soften stool to ease passage in order to treat constipation. Constipation is a condition due to infrequent, painful, or difficult bowel movements.
Anyone can experience constipation at any time, and this may be due to dietary issues, certain medications, lifestyle changes, medical conditions, or even stress. Constipation feels miserable and can cause complications like hemorrhoids or anal fissures if you force yourself to poop.
How do laxatives work?
To give you a clear picture of how these work, let us begin with the digestive process. The process of digestion begins when you put food in the mouth. Here, it is broken down into simpler particles and proceeds to the stomach.
In the stomach, digestive enzymes and acids act on the food, processed, and proceed to the small intestines. In the small intestines, enzymes and bile help to process the food more, and it’s at this point where water and nutrients are absorbed from the food by the small intestine’s walls into your bloodstream.
What remains (the waste) proceeds to the large intestines and stored. In case of constipation, this waste will take longer than normal to be taken out.
What laxatives do is to soften the stool (waste) so that it’s easier to pass or they stimulate the bowel movements in the large intestines so that stool is passed out more easily.
What are the different types of laxatives?
There are different kinds of laxatives that work in different ways. However, their final goal is to make you have bowel movements or ease the passage of waste. These among others include;
1. Bulk-forming laxatives
The common examples are Metamucil and Citrucel. These mainly add fiber to your diet. These laxatives cause the stool to absorb water from your body so that it is softer and easier to pass out. It can be in form of a powder that you can easily mix in any drink.
2. Lubricant laxatives
This is a form of glycerine inserted into the anus to coat the surface of stool and intestinal walls so that stool can glide out more easily.
3. Osmotic laxatives
These make sure that the colon retains more water. This increases the frequency of bowel movements. Examples include; polyethylene glycol and magnesium hydroxide.
4. Stimulant laxatives
These speed up or force the bowel to contract to eliminate waste.
5. Stool softeners
This involves adding docusate sodium, water, and fat to soften your stool for easy passage.
Do laxatives make you lose weight?
The use of laxatives for weight loss has become popular and many people think that using laxatives can allow for quick, easy, and effortless weight loss. But this is a misnomer. Laxatives will not help you lose weight.
If you happen to use laxatives, you may see a drop in the numbers on the scale. But this is water weight that you’re losing. It is not a change in body fat but temporary water weight loss. You will eventually gain the original weight once you take fluids or water.
The calories from food and drinks we consume are absorbed by the small intestine, yet laxatives only act on the large intestines.
When then should we take laxatives?
Laxatives should only be taken to relieve constipation; where one has fewer than three bowel movements in a week. But, sometimes, you don’t need laxatives. Instead, you may add more fiber to your diet and drinking a lot of water to soften your stool. Otherwise, laxatives for weight loss simply don’t work.
What are the side effects of using laxatives?
Laxatives can have serious side effects if abused. In fact, about 4% of Americans have abused laxatives at some point trying to lose weight. Below are some of the side effects that are a result of laxative abuse.
Since laxatives work by drawing water from surrounding tissues into the intestines, this can result in water loss through stool. And if we don’t replenish the lost water, it results in dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration include; dry mouth, thirst, headache, dizziness, and light-headedness.
Dependency on laxatives
People have a tendency of depending on medication in all aspects or systems of their bodies. Pain killers, laxatives, and more are some of the medicines where we see dependency or long time use. It reaches a point where the system is compromised and can no longer work on its own without the respective medicines.
Imbalances in minerals and electrolytes
Electrolytes are substances such as chloride, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphate in the body fluids that are responsible for the normal function of body cells and tissues. In case of an imbalance, one can experience side effects including seizures, confusion, and coma.
Laxatives can lead to loss of electrolytes leading to an electrolyte imbalance. In one small study involving 24 patients, it was established that laxative use resulted in significant alterations in participants’ levels of sodium and potassium.
In addition to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and dependence, the use of laxatives can lead to damage to delicate organs in the body. These according to research include;
How to use laxatives safely
Laxatives will not have side effects if used correctly. Below are some tips on how to use laxatives.
- Always read the directions on the package before use. This includes how much and how often to take. Always ask a pharmacist in case of anything you don’t understand.
- For those with chronic health conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, and more, talk to your medical provider before using laxatives.
- Laxatives can interfere with certain medications. If you are on any medication, talk to your doctor before using any laxative. This is because laxatives can interfere with other over the counter medications.
- Laxatives should be used temporarily but not for a long time.
- If a laxative does not help you pass out stool, talk to a doctor. This can be a sign of a more complicated condition.
What is the safest way to lose weight?
Unhealthy weight loss methods have long-term consequences for your health. Choose safer and more effective methods to lose weight that do not put your health at risk. Some safe weight loss strategies include;
- Eat more fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber
- Exercise regularly
- Practice mindful eating
- Get plenty of sleep
- Make sure you are hydrated (drink plenty of fluids)
- Eat high-protein foods
- Avoid added sugars
- Manage stress
Laxatives help constipation by increasing the frequency of bowel movements. However, they don’t work for weight loss. What people normally experience is water weight loss that is temporary.
More to that, using a laxative to help weight loss is abuse and can lead to serious side effects
The safest way to lose weight is to have a healthy diet and regular body exercise.
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