Weight loss goals has long been a trending topic in the sector of health. People try different ways to lose weight and most have failed. Laxatives for weight loss seems to be one of the most effective ways.

In this 21st century, people want quick results. Patience is no longer a game that most people can engage in, especially when it comes to weight loss. This has even led some people to using “effective” ways to lose weight – only to turn out that they are unhealthy. Laxatives for weight loss has hit the market with a different style. You may wonder if they are safe for use and effective. This article explains everything you need to know about laxatives for weight loss.

What Are Laxatives?

Laxatives are medications that are often used to increase bowel regularity and movements or soften stool to ease passage. They are mostly preferred for the treatment of constipation – a digestive problem characterized by reduced bowel movements, painful passage of hard stool. Currently, they are widely used to promote weight loss. Many people using it for this purpose, think that it can help stimulate bowel movements, and enable quick and effortless weight loss. However, their safety and effectiveness are an issue of concern as will be discussed later in this article.

Laxatives can be grouped in different classes, mainly:

Stimulant laxatives:

They are designed to increase movements of the digestive tract.

Osmotic-type laxatives:

These work by drawing water into the colon and retained, which increases the frequency of bowel movement.

Bulk-forming laxatives:

These move whole and intact through the gut, drawing water and adding bulk to stool.

Saline laxatives:

They work by helping the small intestines hold more water leading to an increased bowel movement.

Lubricant laxatives:

This type work by coating the surface of stool with mucus as well and intestinal lining, to allow for smooth passage of stool.

Stool softeners:

This type of laxative work by allowing stool to attract more water, which softens it for easier passage.

Laxatives Can Lead to Loss of Water Weight

Laxatives have increasingly become a common alternative for people who want to lose weight in a short time. In fact, some studies published in the National Institute of Health, estimate that laxatives are highly abused by up to 4 percent of the general population. While laxatives may truly help you lose weight, the results are only short lived. Many types of laxatives work by drawing water from the body into your intestines, which adds more water to stool and soften it for easy passage. Taking this mode of action into consideration, laxatives will only help you lose weight in the form of water that you lose through stool. One study examined people with bulimia nervosa and the amount of food intake. Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by eating excess amount of food, which is then followed by self-purge or use of laxatives – methods they use to prevent weight gain. The study established that, out of all methods used by these patients, use of laxatives was a poor and ineffective method of weight gain prevention. So far, there is no research to back the use of laxatives to promote weight loss. Instead, it can result to severe side effects such as dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. It is even associated with dependence.

Potential Side Effects

Laxatives May Lead To Dehydration

Use of laxatives have consistently been associated with dehydration. This is especially true because many types of laxatives exert their actions by drawing water from nearby tissues, which is lost through stool. If you are complacent about replenishing the lost water, you will soon go into dehydration. Dehydration usually presents with symptoms like reduced urine output, headaches, elevated thirst, dizziness, fatigue, and dry skin. In fact, dehydration can complicate to other adverse side effects as you will see later in this article.

Laxative Use May Cause Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolytes are mineral substances found in your bodily fluids and are responsible for proper and normal cell and tissue functioning. They may include sodium, chloride, calcium, phosphate, magnesium, and calcium. If these essential electrolytes are not balanced, adverse side effects may follow, including seizures, confusion, and coma. Use of laxatives may easily lead to electrolyte loss, consequently resulting in electrolyte imbalance – a fatal side effect of laxative abuse. One study found that use of laxatives to prepare patients for colonoscopies – a diagnostic procedure used to image the colon – could lead to significant alterations in electrolyte imbalance. Electrolyte imbalance commonly presents with muscle twitching, weakness, muscle aches, heart palpitations, headaches, and thirst.

Laxative Abuse Could Lead to Dependency

It is feared that chronic use of laxatives could potentially cause dependency. This problem is more associated with the use of stimulant-laxatives, which work by increasing intestinal movements to induce bowel regularity. However, the side effect is based on anecdotal reports.

Other Possible Side Effects

Besides causing electrolyte imbalance, dehydration, and dependence, use of laxatives have been linked with a number of other adverse side effects, such as:


Abuse of laxatives have been shown to induce rhabdomyolysis – a condition in which muscle tissues break down, releasing toxic protein into the bloodstream.

Gastrointestinal damage:

A study on patients who recovered from anorexia found that they had marked changes in the gastrointestinal performance and pancreatic damages due to former heavy laxative use.

Liver damage:

Itis also thought that lative use could possibly lead to liver damage in some patients.

Kidney failure:

Some studies also link laxative use to severe kidney damage to a magnitude that requires dialysis, which is a modality of renal treatment that helps clean the blood by removing waste and toxins.

Safe and Effective Ways to Lose Weight

Exercise regularly.

Eat more fruits and vegetables, as they are rich in fiber and low in calories.

Cut back on your portion sizes for fewer calories.

Eat a high-protein breakfast.

Limit your intake of added sugar.


Laxatives can effectively help prevent constipation and increase bowel movement. Their use to promote weight loss may is not sustainable for a long time. They can also lead to adverse side effects like dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

MS, Durham University

The work of a family doctor includes a wide range of clinical diversity, which requires extensive knowledge and erudition from a specialist. However, I believe that the most important thing for a family doctor is to be human because the cooperation and understanding between the doctor and the patient are crucial in ensuring successful health care. On my days off, I love being in nature. Since childhood, I have been passionate about playing chess and tennis. Whenever I have time off, I enjoy traveling around the world.

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