The Facts About Laxatives

Laxatives are intended to alleviate occasional constipation.  However, some people take laxatives to promote weight loss.  In fact, laxatives do not prevent the body from absorbing calories and, when over-used, create dependency and worsen constipation.  Laxatives deplete the body of water; the body, in turn, compensates for dehydration by retaining water, which results in bloating. Laxatives are extremely dangerous when misused, laxative stimulants in particular, such as senna, pheolphthalien, and castor oil.

Laxative abuse can cause electrolyte imbalances.  Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are minerals essential to proper functioning of nerves and muscles, including the heart.  Electrolyte imbalances can cause tremors, vomiting, urinary tract infections, kidney failure, muscle spasms, and heart attacks leading to death

Dehydration resulting from laxative abuse can lead to tremors, fainting, weakness, and blurred vision.  Severe dehydration can cause organ damage leading to death. 

Overusing laxatives wears away the protective mucus that lines the colon, leaving the colon susceptible to infections.  Overusing laxatives may also contribute to irritable bowel syndrome and bowel tumors.

  • Laxatives only work to relieve occasional constipation.
  • Laxatives do not help people lose weight.
  • Laxatives are habit forming and, when misused, worsen digestion
  • Laxatives can cause numerous medical consequences, including death.

If you are abusing laxatives, please seek medical help.  Call your internist or Heath Services at 4-2091.  Your health care provider will guide you through the process of withdrawing from laxatives, which is sometimes done by tapering and others times by stopping immediately and completely.