Laxative Abuse for Weight Loss

Many with Eating Disorders abuse laxatives (a medication used, in several forms, to bring about a bowel movement) in a misguided attempt to rid the body of the food they've eaten before calories can be absorbed. This is impossible as laxatives are designed to artificially stimulate nerve endings in the colon, the last part of the digestive tract, where indigestible fiber resides after food has already been digested in the small intestine. Others use them to deal with constipation brought on by starvation (severe restriction of food intake does not supply enough bulk to stimulate bowel movement).

Laxative abuse causes the body to rely on the artificial stimulation of the colon in order to bring about bowel movements. Though the scales may show a decrease in weight it is only temporary. It is not true weight loss but due to loss of water. Eventually, the use of laxatives may cause weight gain. The body, confused by the loss of water, will hold onto it, causing edema.

Laxative abuse can result in several of the same conditions as diuretic abuse, and more:
  • laxative dependency
  • electrolyte imbalance
  • potassium deficiency
  • dehydration
  • painful cramps
  • vomiting
  • edema
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • anemia
  • increased risk of colon cancer
  • bowel damage
  • Melanosis Coli
  • hemorrhoids
  • loss of protective mucus lining the intestines, causing infection
  • kidney damage
  • fainting
  • dizziness
  • liver damage (rarely)
  • death

How To Stop Abusing Laxatives:

1. Stop taking laxatives right now, and do not take any more unless your physician instructs you to do so. Remember that stimulant-type laxatives are especially harmful to the body (see the reverse side).

2. Drink at least 6 to 10 cups of water (and decaffeinated beverages—not caffeinated beverages because they act like a diuretic, promoting loss of fluid) a day. Restricting your fluid intake at this time promotes dehydration and only worsens the constipation.

3. Including some physical activity in your regular daily pattern can also help to regulate your bowel function, although you should discuss the intensity and type of activity first with your health care provider or therapist. Too much or too vigorous exercise can worsen constipation, due to the effects on your metabolism and fluid balance.

4. Eat regularly. It is important that you spread the amount of food recommended to you on your meal plan across at least 3 meals a day, and to eat these meals at regular intervals.

5. Eat more foods that promote normal bowel movements. The healthiest dietary approach to promoting normal bowel function is to eat more whole-grain breads, cereals, and crackers and wheat bran or foods with wheat bran added. This dietary approach should be done in tandem with drinking more fluids. Vegetables and fruits also contribute to normal bowel function. Prunes and prune juice are not recommended because the ingredient in prunes that promotes bowel movements is actually an irritant laxative, and long-term use of prunes and prune juice can result in the same problem as long-term use of laxatives.

6. Write down the frequency of your bowel movements on a sheet of paper. If you are constipated for more than 3 days, call your physician, dietitian, or psychotherapist.

Read also:What to expect from laxative withdrawal.

The abusive use of laxatives can cause serious, often irreversible damage and can ultimately result in death. Treatment for laxative abuse can take time but is possible. Speak with your doctor for treatment options.

If you are suffering with an eating disorder please reach out for help:
Eating Disorder Help: Hotlines, Organizations, and Websites

Read more about laxative abuse:

information compiled from the following sources:


MrsMenopausal said...

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If any reader discovers a link to a pro ED site on this blog please know that I am unaware of it and email me at to let me know and it will be removed.

Thank you.