I have been hanging out with some new friends lately and most of the girls (16-26 years old) are a size six to seven and when I asked how they stay so thin, the majority of them said they take laxatives everyday! This cannot be good for their bodies in the long run, can it? I am asking as the majority of these girls hang out with my 17-year-old cousin and I noticed that she has started taking laxatives everyday and I am worried of the effects it will have on her body, skin. Can you advise me on the potential effects these could have?
You are absolutely right in thinking that taking laxatives for weight loss is bad for you. Using laxatives for a long period can lead to some very serious health problems.
Firstly laxatives are not designed for weight loss. When you take a laxative, water is drawn into the bowel to bulk up your stool, the bowel muscles are then stimulated to have a bowel motion. Any weight loss experienced while taking laxatives is generally attributed to water loss, and the removal of faecal matter giving your tummy a flatter appearance temporarily. As soon as you re-hydrate again the weight will return. Calories from foods eaten are still absorbed in the small intestines, so taking a laxative will not reduce your calorie intake.
Abusing laxatives can lead to dehydration, deficiencies in important nutrients, and an electrolyte imbalance. Deficiencies in important nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium will cause issues with muscle and nerve function, which will result in problems with the functioning of vital organs such as the heart. A calcium deficiency will also set you up for poor bone and teeth health, and the risk of osteoporosis and fractures later in life.
If you take laxatives long term you will also run the risk of becoming dependant on them. Your bowel wall muscles will become weak, and you will lose the ability to have a normal bowel movement without the assistance of laxatives.
Your cousin taking laxatives to control her weight is a sign that she could be developing a serious eating disorder. I would strongly recommend you try and convince her to go and talk to a psychologist to discuss this further, and to also see a naturopath to talk about the health dangers associated with taking laxatives regularly, and to help her get her digestion and bowel function working normally again.
For more information visit Lisa's website, Art of healing.