Laxative lose weight? Know the effect and risks of the remedy

This doubt has never been so high and for reasons so worrying. Due to the controversial use made by celebrities or the incessant search for a “perfect” body, many people are questioning the possibility of using laxatives to lose weight. But, the laxative in the body does not cause weight loss, but a swelling.

The drug should be used only when necessary and after medical prescription, as there are several risks caused when used in excess and for this purpose.

Thinking about this and the importance of clarifying the risks of using laxative for weight loss, we discuss in the following text how laxative works in the body, when it should be used and the complications that it can bring.

What is the laxative for?

Laxative is a type of medication used to help the bowel function, relieving conditions such as constipation . It can also be used during the preparation of surgical procedures.

Therefore, it is only recommended for people who suffer from constipation or who need to undergo a surgical procedure that requires this intestinal “cleaning”, as in the case of exams such as colonoscopy , done to examine the colon and rectum.

With the exception of these conditions, the use of laxative should not be done. In addition, when used, it must be by medical prescription. There are serious risks in self-medication and this applies to the use of the laxative.

What is the effect of laxative on the body?

The action of this medication is to provoke intestinal contractions, which help to stimulate the elimination of feces. This stimulus is different depending on the laxative used.

The main types of laxatives are divided as follows:

  • Stimulants or irritants: cause greater contraction of the intestinal muscles, accelerating the evacuation;
  • Osmotics : are the laxatives that absorb water into the colon (a process called osmosis) and favor bowel movements;
  • Faecal cake (or bulking) makers : they also absorb water, but to form more bulky faecal cakes, which helps in eliminating and stimulating intestinal muscle contraction;
  • Lubricants : they promote a softening of the fecal cake and therefore make feces easier to be evacuated.

The pharmacist and doctor of pharmacology Francielle Tatiana Mathias also answered some of the most common questions about the effect of the laxative on the body:

How long does the effect of a laxative last?

” In general, these medications are taken once a day and the laxative action occurs 6 to 12 hours after ingesting the medication “, he advises. It can be different for each person, because factors such as weight, type of laxative and food eaten by the patient interfere in this time.

Can prolonged use of laxatives impair the absorption of other medications?

“ If they are used in excess (above the recommended dose) and severe diarrhea occurs , they can harm the absorption of other drugs. In the case of contraceptives, for example, if diarrhea occurs 3 to 4 hours after taking the contraceptive, it is as if the medication had not been taken ”, he explains.

How to take?

Laxatives can be taken in the form of pills, syrups or jellies (herbal medicines). In addition, they can be used rectally. According to each type, the instructions for use are different, something that must be evaluated and done by the doctor responsible for accompanying the patient.

Among the options of laxatives in tablets, there are drugs made based on the active ingredient bisacodyl , which have a more immediate effect. In these cases, the recommendation is that these laxatives should be taken, preferably, during the night. Because it takes from 6h to 12h to start the effect, when taking it before bed, it is possible to schedule yourself to go to the bathroom in the morning.

Another precaution that must be taken is in relation to the foods consumed with this type of laxative. Products that reduce stomach acidity, for example, should be avoided.

Milk, antacids (aluminum and magnesium hydroxide) and proton pump inhibitors (Omeprazole, for example) favor the rapid loss of the enteric coating, that is, the coating that prevents the drug from dissolving so that it reaches the intestine intact and that prevents the release of the active ingredient in the wrong place, so to speak.

Can you take laxative every day?

No . According to the pharmacist and doctor of pharmacology Francielle Tatiana Mathias, the laxative is a medication used in specific cases such as occasional constipation or before carrying out some tests to empty the intestine. ” Continued use can cause a lazy bowel, dehydration and loss (depletion) of important ions like potassium, ” he adds.

After all, taking laxative makes you lose weight?

No . Despite causing a sensation of weight loss, this is not the action of the drug in the body. It helps the intestine to function better and in this way causes swelling and, in excess, dehydration. That is, the sensation of weight loss is just the loss of water from the body. After the person hydrates and replenishes the lost fluids, that weight comes back.

That is why it is false to say that the laxative loses weight, since the medication has no interference in relation to the absorption of calories (a process that happens in the digestive system), since its action occurs in the intestine.

This means that the laxative provides only a kind of artificial stimulation of the large intestine, so that the patient can empty it. However, this stimulus should happen only after the body has been able to absorb all the nutrients and calories from the food eaten.

When the body does not have problems such as constipation, abdominal bloating usually does not occur. That is why the sensation of those who take the laxative may be of weight loss, but it is only an illusion.

In addition, laxative when taken improperly can cause dehydration. These factors contribute to this false sensation of weight loss.

Therefore, taking this medication with this intention can cause serious health risks. Those who want to lose weight should seek a nutritionist and a physical educator, to reduce the measures in a healthy way.

Read more: Healthy Eating: what it is, benefits, how to have it, menu, tips

With the practice of physical exercises and a balanced diet, in addition to weight loss, there are many other benefits.

Risks in the use of laxative

Prolonged laxative use can cause a number of health risks, especially when used continuously and in excess. Some of the problems caused include diarrhea, severe colic, hemorrhoids and diaper rash, due to the wear and tear caused by the action of the medication. Other risks in indiscriminate use include:

Rebound or dependence effect

Contrary to popular belief, the excessive use of laxatives can make the intestine even lazier, making constipation worse. With continuous use, the body ends up getting used to receiving the laxative for evacuation to occur.

In a way, the organism becomes addicted to the action of the medication and does not work without it. Thus, this dependency turns out to be not only psychological, but also physical.

Electrolyte imbalance

Electrolytes are positively and negatively charged minerals that regulate various processes in the body. We naturally lose these minerals through body fluids, such as sweat, urine and in cases of diarrhea and vomiting.

So that electrolyte levels are always in balance, the kidneys and some specific hormones work for this.

However, the laxative can cause this imbalance by causing, when used improperly, a more severe dehydration of the body, which ends up causing an excess elimination of these electrolytes.

The complications of this imbalance can be mild and cause temporary symptoms such as feeling tired , dizzy and muscle pain. However, they can also cause more serious and prolonged damage to health, such as mental confusion, seizures , changes in blood pressure and changes in heartbeat.

Kidney and heart problems

As seen, the imbalance caused in electrolyte levels by the inappropriate use of laxative can cause a series of complications, compromising the functioning of vital organs such as the kidneys and heart.

Loss of potassium, a condition called hypokalemia , for example, can cause severe changes in heart rate.

Dehydration

The action of the laxative can cause dehydration in the patient, as it tends to cause loss of mineral salts, liquids and the reduction of potassium in the blood, when used for a long period. The patient in this condition may have low urine production and excessive thirst.

Causes irritation of the intestinal mucosa

Some studies show that the use of laxatives continuously may be the cause of the higher prevalence of cases of patients suffering from inflammation and irritation of the gastric mucosa, due to the fact that these drugs cause a bowel movement in a shorter time.

In addition, the continuous and non-prescription use of the laxative can interfere with the absorption of micronutrients essential for health, precisely because of the irritation caused in the intestinal mucosa, which affects important cells in this absorption process.

Imbalance of the microbiota

Our gut has a large amount of bacteria, both good and bad, that help the body stay in order.

However, excessive use of laxatives can end up causing a loss of good bacteria, which help the body retain essential minerals for health, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium. This condition is called microbiota imbalance.

Possible increased risk of colorectal cancer

A study published by the journal Annals of Epidemiology evaluated a possible relationship between the use of non-fiber-based laxatives and a higher incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC).

The research concluded that the risk of cases of CRC in people who use the drug is greater when compared to patients who do not use this type of laxative.

Among fiber-based laxatives, the research did not obtain significant results to affirm a risk relationship.

Laxative and bulimia: what is the relationship?

The bulimia nervous is a kind of serious eating disorder in which the patient has compulsive eating habits followed by episodes called compensatory behaviors .

Thus, they seek weight loss by inducing vomiting, practicing physical activities until exhaustion, staying fasting or consuming diuretics, appetite suppressants and laxatives.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), it is characterized as a condition of bulimia nervosa when the patient exhibits compensatory behaviors at least once a week for three months.

The self-esteem low, as distortion of body image, are some of the factors that lead people to seek the most harmful to health only methods aimed at weight loss.

The use of the laxative made for this purpose can be an indication of bulimia nervosa. This is one more reason why the drug should never be used without medical advice.

In the case of patients with bulimia nervosa, the complications caused in the body due to these compensatory behaviors involve gastrointestinal problems, dehydration, cardiac arrhythmia , damage to tooth enamel, inflammation in the throat and bleeding, mainly caused by induced vomiting and laxatives.

Aesthetic pressure and the search for a “perfect” body

There are many questions behind the question “Does laxative lose weight?” To discuss this type of doubt is also to discuss self-esteem, bulimia, image disorder and how much people suffer from aesthetic pressure.

In addition to the complications caused to physical health, this type of behavior causes serious damage to mental health , which should be treated to the same extent and with the same importance as other clinical conditions.

It is not wrong to seek a standard of beauty that makes you happy, but this must be done in a healthy way (physically and psychologically), with medical supervision, physical exercise and a good diet.

Even when the use of weight loss drugs is necessary, this should be done with a medical prescription and adequate monitoring.

In cases of bulimia and anorexia , for example, psychological counseling is essential. Working on self-esteem, self-love and seeking references from people who inspire a healthier life, in this sense, can help in the treatment.

Natural Laxatives

As seen, laxative is not a weight loss medicine and therefore should never be used for this purpose. However, constipation is a problem that affects many people and needs to be resolved.

But, even for people who live with the condition, the laxative should not be the first treatment option, especially for continuous use.

First, you need to seek help from a doctor to be able to understand what is the cause of this constipation. From this, a more appropriate treatment can be started, as the doctor will know if the use of medications is necessary or not.

As initial measures, people who suffer from stuck intestines can follow three basic tips:

  • Include fiber-rich foods in the diet;
  • Practice physical exercises;
  • Drink plenty of water, keeping yourself hydrated.

Understand how fibers can help and learn about other types of natural laxatives that can be included in the diet:

Fibers

Soluble and insoluble fibers, such as those present in foods such as roots, vegetables and whole foods, help in the formation of fecal cake, which helps to speed up the digestive process.

However, in addition to fiber intake, it is essential not to forget to also compensate for water consumption, since the fibers retain water. That way, they can end up worsening constipation by standing still in the intestine.

With adequate water consumption, this does not occur, which facilitates intestinal transit and the evacuation process.

Some fiber-rich food options are:

  • Vegetables : lettuce, pumpkin, zucchini, asparagus, beets, broccoli, chard, cucumber, peppers, radishes, green beans, okra, sweet potatoes, arugula, fennel, spinach etc .;
  • Fruits : papaya, plum, banana, blackberry, cashew, pineapple, fresh coconut, apricot, kiwi, apple with peel, passion fruit, mango, grape, tangerine, strawberry, etc .;
  • Legumes : peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas, soybeans;
  • Cereals : chia seed, flaxseed, oats, granola.

Probiotic foods

Probiotic foods can help in constipation, as they have some food components that are not digested in the stomach and therefore, when they reach the intestine, they stimulate the proliferation of some beneficial bacteria that lodge there.

In addition, they help to induce peristaltic movements, assisting in the elimination of feces. Some options for probiotic foods include kefir, kombucha and yogurts.

Read more: Step by step: how to make water and milk kefir?

Mineral oils

Mineral oils, such as castor oil, are considered natural stimulating laxatives, as they cause intestinal irritation that stimulates contractions in the large intestine, which favors the passage of feces.

However, even though it is a natural stimulant, it also has some usage restrictions. Pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, people with diseases such as Crohn’s disease , chronic intestinal obstruction and ulcerative colitis, for example, should not take it.

How to lose weight with health?

If your intention is to lose weight, I hope that by now you have already convinced yourself of how dangerous it is to use the laxative for this purpose and, therefore, stay away from this idea.

However, there is no need to be discouraged or abandon the desire to lose weight, as this can be done in a healthy way.

For those who prefer to follow diets, there are options that are not so restrictive and that make it possible to consume essential nutrients for health, such as the food pyramid itself, Dukan diet and the points diet, for example.

However, before starting any of these diets or any other, it is essential to talk to a nutritionist.

Among other ways to lose weight in a healthy way are also included the following tips:

Physical exercises

Practicing physical exercises is one of the most hit keys when it comes to healthy weight loss, because being on the move is not just spending calories. There are several health benefits present in an exercise routine.

Within this tip, the possibilities are many:

  • Bodybuilding;
  • Crossfit;
  • Functional training;
  • Race;
  • Aerobic classes like step and jump;
  • Hiking;
  • Sports such as football, volleyball, basketball, etc .;
  • Swimming.

Read more: Exercises to lose belly: how to do, aerobic and abdominal

Nutritional education

The   nutritional education is a change in eating habits that has the principle balance. It is one of the best ways for those who want to lose weight in a healthy way, but do not want to maintain a restrictive diet .

To start this reeducation, it is important to talk to a nutritionist. This is the most qualified professional to advise on these changes and help to set up menus that are possible for each person’s daily life.

Some suggestions for starting this change in eating habits are:

  • Reduce the consumption of foods rich in sugars and fats;
  • Include more fruits and vegetables in meals;
  • Consume smaller portions;
  • Do not skip any meal, especially breakfast;
  • Add protein to the diet;
  • Consume whole foods;
  • Drink plenty of water;
  • Eat more slowly, chewing well with every meal.

Quality sleep

To lose weight in health it is also important to prioritize a good night’s sleep. Sleeping little affects weight loss, as it interferes with the production of substances that regulate appetite.


The use of laxative for weight loss should not be a widespread idea. This is because the risks to physical and mental health are high in this type of behavior.

It is possible to lose weight in a healthy way looking for a dietary reeducation, adopting physical activities on a daily basis and increasing the quality of life, in general. The use of the laxative, therefore, should be done only when there is a medical prescription.

We seek in this article to warn about the risks of inappropriate use of this medication. Share this text so that more people can know about these complications. Thanks for reading!

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