Laxative Abuse

Laxative Overuse Is A No-Win Game

In a bid to be thin, and to feel thin, some women and men will go to whatever lengths they perceive necessary. They don't want to "have an eating disorder" so they opt for something that will flush their system-every day-and quickly. By over-using laxatives, they feel they are accomplishing what they want, and that is to feel thin. However, laxative abuse carries with it a lot of serious and sometimes debilitating problems.  Looking for immediate results, people who abuse laxatives may well find that their plan has backfired and they are, instead, storing water as their bodies fight for balance. Laxative abuse as a means of weight control is a no-win situation.

What Happens Medically When Laxatives Are Abused

Medically, the impact of laxative abuse is dependent upon a few different factors. The type of laxative that is used, the duration of use and the quantity ingested, all have an affect upon the outcome in terms of how the laxative will affect a person's body. First of all, the repeated use of a laxative can actually cause constipation. This, in itself, is dangerous because the misconception is that more is necessary to cause a bowel movement. So, the dose is increased and the problem intensifies. Laxatives also cause dehydration because fluid is lost through the bowels, causing further problems as bodily function becomes impaired. Edema, the body's reaction to fluid loss, is a self-regulating protective mechanism that causes the body to hold fluid in order to sustain life. Edema is another possible result of dehydration caused by laxative abuse.

Electrolytes are important to life function and when they are missing, the body stops functioning normally. Chronic diarrhea, such as that which is caused by laxative abuse, drains the body of electrolytes (potassium, sodium, and chloride as well as other substances), leading to a gross imbalance in the body.

Different Types Of Laxatives

When stimulant-type laxatives are abused, internal bleeding can happen causing blood in the stools. Chronic blood loss as a result of laxative abuse can lead to anemia. Bowel function can also be permanently impaired by the misuse of stimulant-type laxatives.

Stimulant-type laxatives include such brand names as Ex-Lax, Correctol, Senokot, Ducolax, Feen-a Mint, as well as some of the herbal mixtures sold as laxatives. Milk of Magnesia is an osmotic-type laxative that is included in the stimulant category.

Bulking agents are also laxatives and can be abused much the same way as stimulants. Bulking agents are used to help promote bowel function and when they are used properly, they don't have the same effect as when they are abused. When used with large amounts of water, as recommended, they do what they are supposed to do, increase bowel movement. However, when abused, they have the same effect as stimulant-type laxatives.

How To Break The Cycle

If the misuse of laxatives is the "method of choice" for weight loss, the end result is not healthy and potentially damaging. Steps to stop the cycle include immediate and unequivocal cessation of usage of laxatives and an increase in water consumption. It is especially important to drink between six to ten cups of water daily since restricted water intake can definitely lead to dehydration.

Physical activity helps to regulate bowel function. However, it is important to monitor time and intensity with a professional to ensure that metabolism and fluid balance are properly sustained. Overdoing it can cause more problems. Eating at regular intervals helps the body function better and, initially it is worthwhile to eat foods that promote elimination, such as whole grains, wheat bran, vegetables and fruits. When the diet is proper, function is restored faster.

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