How do you abuse laxatives?
A laxative is a substance or medication that stimulates bowel movements. Laxative abuse is their overuse for a variety of purposes such as relief from constipation, eating disorders or to lose weight. Another form of abuse is becoming so addicted to laxatives you cannot have a bowel movement without them or you have to keep on increasing the amount of laxatives for it to work.
When are you abusing laxatives?
You are abusing laxatives when you take it without a prescription or you’re taking more than the prescribed or recommended dosage or you’re taking the laxatives frequently and over a long period of time. You’re also misusing laxatives if you use them for weight control.
Are there symptoms?
Laxative abuse can cause loss of water and vital minerals, electrolytes and indigestible fiber as well as wastes from the colon. Laxative abuse can lead to symptoms like fluid retention, dehydration, chest pains, irregular heartbeats, liver and kidney damage, intestinal lining damage, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, muscle spasms, nausea, diarrhea, digestive difficulties, constipation, and dizziness.
The more serious side effects are:
- Severe dehydration due to excessive loss of water. This can result in tremors, fainting, blurred vision, kidney damage, even death.
- Electrolyte abnormalities. Potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, etc. are vital minerals present in precise amounts and certain ratios in the blood and body fluids for the proper functioning of the nerves and muscles, including the heart and the colon. Upsetting the electrolyte balance causes improper functioning of these organs leading to cramps, muscle spasms, irregular heartbeat, etc.
- Chronic diarrhea. The frequent bowel movements where mostly water is excreted could sometimes worsen to a situation where blood is mixed with the stool which could cause anemia. Too much water loss could lower your blood pressure, increase your heart rate, etc.
- Laxative dependency. The colon fails to function normally, requiring larger and larger amounts of the laxatives to produce bowel movements.
- Internal organ damage such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) liver damage, ‘lazy’ colon, colon cancer.
- Laxatives can affect the work of other medications, by blocking or increasing their absorption. There are certain medications that should not be taken along with laxatives at all!
Similarities to eating disorders?
Laxative abuse is potentially very serious since you can have intestinal paralysis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pancreatitis, kidney damage, and other problems, even though recovery is possible with proper treatment.
In order to stop abusing laxatives, it is not enough that we know only about the dangers of laxative abuse. We need to be informed of the potential risks and dangers involved in laxative abuse.
Not only removing a lot of water from the body the laxatives also can cause the loss of vital minerals like potassium, calcium, sodium, chloride and magnesium. This electrolyte imbalance can lead to muscle pain, irregular heartbeats, even death. And the loss of water could lead to dehydration.
Side effects of laxative abuse
Laxative abuse could lead to laxative dependency wherein the colon needs larger and larger doses of laxatives to produce ‘normal’ bowel movements.
Laxative abuse could lead to weakening and softening of the bones, brittle teeth, damage to the gastro-intestinal tract, liver and kidney problems, electrolyte imbalance, chronic diarrhea or chronic constipation, even death.
Laxative abuse could weaken your body’s immune system, leading to other infections/diseases.
How to stop abusing laxatives
- Stop taking laxatives immediately. Do not take them unless your physician instructs you to do so.
- See your physician if you’re going through withdrawal symptoms such as temporary weight gain, fluid retention, constipation, etc.
- Drink lots of water to compensate for possible constipation caused by stopping the laxative use.
- Start some moderate physical activity on a regular pattern (after consulting your physician) to regulate your bowel function.
- Eat the amount of food recommended to you at regular intervals.
- Eat more healthy foods rich in fiber such as cereals, fruits and vegetables to promote normal bowel functions.
- Never give up. Sometimes the withdrawal symptoms can be sufficient to get you to relapse into the use (and abuse) of laxatives. Be determined to quit this harmful habit and you will be free from laxative abuse forever.