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4 Health Dangers of Laxatives

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Way too many laxatives!

As a multi-million dollar trade, the weight loss industry is one of the largest and most recognizable health industries in the world. Many people continue to chase after a miracle supplement that will quickly fix their weight issues, completely disregarding sustainable lifestyle modifications that create true, lasting change. Laxatives are one of the many quick-fix products designed to promote fast (and temporary) weight loss results. Although they may help reduce constipation and decrease water weight for a day or two, excessive laxative use has major drawbacks on your health.

1. Dependence

Laxatives should come with a paradox warning label. While they are effective for easing occasional constipation issues, continued use of laxatives can cause constipation. Why is this? When the body begins to heavily rely on laxatives as a means for defecation, it stops depending on its own natural evacuation process. Discontinuing laxatives following a prolonged bout of use can actually throw off the body’s ability to properly remove wastes, resulting in constipation. [1]

2. Electrolyte Imbalance

Laxative abuse can also cause chronic diarrhea, which in turn can cause the depletion of potassium and sodium. Potassium and sodium are excreted in the feces, and the excess excretion can bring the body into an electrolyte imbalance. Symptoms related to an electrolyte imbalance include cramping, mental fatigue, and, in severe cases, death. [2]

3. Dehydration

Although weight loss may occur with laxative abuse, its temporary results are mainly attributed to the loss of water weight. While the number on the scale may move slightly, fat loss can only be obtained naturally through appropriate exercise and diet modification. The removal of water from the body may cause dehydration [3], a serious issue that can result in fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and high blood pressure.

4. Nutrient Deficiencies

While the majority of nutrients obtained from food are primarily absorbed by the small intestine, chronic use of laxatives may result in the loss of essential minerals by increasing transit time beyond what’s beneficial. A nutrient deficiency of sodium and potassium can cause low blood pressure (hypotension), decreased muscle contraction, and impaired cardiovascular function. [4]

Be Safe!

When constipation strikes, laxatives aren’t the safest choice. Eating foods that are naturally high in fiber and drinking plenty of fresh, clean water is essential for promoting smooth and efficient bowel movements. An oxygen-based colon cleanse may also help. What are your take on laxatives? Do you ever use them for constipation? Have you ever used a natural remedy like abdominal massage instead? Let us know in the comments!

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM


  1. Joo JS, Ehrenpreis ED, Gonzalez L, Kaye M, Breno S, Wexner SD, Zaitman D, Secrest K. Alterations in colonic anatomy induced by chronic stimulant laxatives: the cathartic colon revisted. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 1998 June;26(4):283-6.
  2. Roerig JL, Steffen KJ, Mitchell JE, Zunker C. Laxative abuse: epidemiology, diagnosis and management. Drugs. 2010 August 20;70(12):1487-503. doi: 10.2165/11898640-000000000-00000.
  3. Ladenhauf HN, Stunder O, Spreitzhofer F, Deluggi S. Severe hyperphosphatemia after administration of sodium-phosphate containing laxatives in childre: case series and systematic review of literature. Pediatric Surgery International. 2012 August;28(8):805-14. doi: 10.1007/s00383=012-3124-4.
  4. Fleming BJ, Genuth SM, Gould AB, Kamionkowski MD. Laxative-induced hypokalemia, sodium depletion and hyperreninemia. Effects of potassium and sodium replacement on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Annals of Internal Medicine. 1975 July;83(1):60-2.

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