Laxatives are foods or drugs taken to induce a bowel movement or loosen stool. There is a common belief that taking laxatives can lead to weight loss. However, the reality is that laxatives only lead to a loss of water weight, which appears as pounds lost on the scale, but is not indicative of actual weight lost. Laxatives are readily available as an over-the-counter medication and in herbal remedies and tea, but these are medicinally intended to treat constipation or for surgery preparation.
How Laxatives Work
Laxatives are intended to clear up the intestinal tract very rapidly through the use of medicines or herbal products such a cascara, senna or Castor oil. The targeted area for the laxative is the large intestine and use of laxatives is advised for certain medical procedures or for individuals with slow bowel movements. Since laxatives have no effect on the small intestine, where caloric absorption occurs, they will have little to no effect on actual weight loss. However, once bloating or constipation is relieved, do not continue to use the laxative as it can lead to dependency and damage.
Reasonable Use of Laxatives
Laxatives can be effective for small, short term weight loss, such as for a sporting event or to fit into a special occasion dress. However, be sure to choose a gentle laxative that is aimed at relieving the bloating associated with constipation. A gentle laxative can also be effective for relieving water retention in bowels, such as during a menstrual cycle.
Side Effects of Laxative Use
The most significant side effect of laxative use is the regular and unpredictable frequency of bathroom use, which can have a significant impact on your daily functioning. More importantly, however, is the impact of long term laxative use on other body systems, which can include gastrointestinal tract damage, osteomalacia, irregular menstrual cycles, stomach pain, nausea and addiction. In light of these side effects compared to their little actual weight loss benefit, the use of laxatives for weight loss is not an advisable method.