Laxatives are actually intended for the treatment of constipation. However, they are often misused in the assumption that they can lose a few superfluous kilos of body weight in a short period of time. Non-prescription drugs are often used for this. Whether this way of losing weight is helpful and healthy will be discussed afterwards.
What’s behind all this?
First, it should be clarified that there are different types of laxatives. On the one hand, there are laxatives which stimulate the muscle activity of the intestinal wall and thus transport the stool out of the body more quickly. This can be done by swelling agents or so-called “isoosmotic laxatives”, which are not absorbed by the intestine and swell up in the intestine through the water in the bowel.
The increased intestinal volume then leads to an increase in intestinal activity in the large intestine. There are also agents that actively inhibit the intestine’s water absorption and promote the intestine’s release of water. These drugs are called “osmotically acting laxatives” (e.g. Epsom salts, Glauber’s salt).
In this process, fluid is “drawn” from the blood in the intestinal wall into the intestine. This also leads to increased activity in the large intestine. The assumption that food is not digested and therefore no nutrients are absorbed is therefore incorrect.
What side effects are to be expected when losing weight with laxatives?
Like most drugs, laxatives also have side effects. Depending on which laxative is used, the side effects can be of varying severity. Swelling agents often lead to increased flatulence and stomach ache.
With isoosmotic laxatives, a shift in the electrolyte balance is suspected. This means that the intervention in the body’s own water balance also alters the concentration of minerals (especially sodium and potassium) in the blood, which can have negative consequences for heart activity. Serious side effects are caused by osmotically acting laxatives, such as Epsom salts or Glauber’s salt. This can lead to massive impairment of the electrolyte balance, which can result in heart and kidney damage.
Why you should not lose weight with laxatives?
The reasons against weight loss with laxatives are clear. Firstly, the desired effectiveness is not available. Laxatives mainly influence the water content of the stool in the large intestine and thus have a laxative effect.
There is therefore no reduced absorption of sugars or fats. If you weigh less after laxation, the reason is probably the loss of water by the laxative. However, dehydration is not healthy. Laxatives also have side effects. These can be unpleasant and dangerous.
Medical evaluation of the diet
We strongly advise against a diet of laxatives. Apart from the side effects mentioned, this diet has no significant effectiveness and is therefore unnecessary. The influence on the mineral and water balance can have unpleasant and dangerous consequences and cannot be ignored.
Laxatives should only be used for significant medical symptoms such as constipation. The important thing when losing weight is rather a reduction of calorie intake and increased energy consumption. So: do more sport, eat less food containing fat and sugar.