Weight loss is a process that can become very psychologically addictive. After reaching a plateau, people seeking weigh loss can turn to dangerous techniques. When this happens, an unfortunately large amount of people resort to the abuse of laxatives to rid the body of calories before it can digest food. The abuse of laxatives is dangerous and can lead to a wide variety of consequences, such as dehydration, electrolyte and mineral imbalances, kidney damage, and laxative dependency.
Chronic diarrhea associated with long-term laxative abuse is almost always associated with dehydration. Some laxatives work by pulling water into the colon, causing the intestines to increase movement. When taken excessively, this shift in water quickly leads to dehydration. Dehydration causes weakness and blurry vision. It also can severely damage the kidneys, brain, and heart.
The body responds to laxatives by ridding itself of fluid, electrolytes, and minerals. This can lead to extreme imbalances in electrolytes and minerals that is damaging to nearly all bodily systems. An imbalance of potassium, calcium, and sodium can have many effects on muscles, causing fatigue or cramping. The heart muscle is strongly affected by the imbalance of these minerals, leading to irregular heartbeat or congestive heart failure.
Laxatives cause the kidneys to work at an increased rate to pass more water, electrolytes, and minerals. When the body becomes dehydrated from laxative abuse, the kidneys in turn create urine which is more concentrated. Concentrated urine may lead to a buildup of minerals that crystallize into a stone. These are called kidney stones, and are known to be one of the most painful urologic disorders. Abusing laxatives risks other kidney malfunctions as well.
The depletion of fluid and minerals in the body is also associated with kidney damage. Reduced potassium in the bloodstream can lead to a condition called rhabdomyolysis, where muscle fiber is broken down and released into the bloodstream. This broken down muscle fiber, called myoglobin, can cause severe damage to the kidneys.
Excessive and frequent use of laxatives can quickly lead to a physical dependence, where the body requires larger and larger doses to produce a bowel movement. When a person abuses laxatives for weight loss, they often feed this dependency by taking increased doses. The process of overcoming a laxative dependency can cause several physical side effects, including constipation, bloating, and temporary weight gain. This is because the body is trying to regain its ability to regulate fluid, resulting in extreme water retention. While these side effects are only temporary, it leads many laxative abusers to return to the use of laxatives to reduce the side effects. This creates a vicious cycle of laxative abuse that is clearly difficult to overcome.
If you or a loved one has been abusing laxatives for weight loss or any other reason, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about treatment for laxative abuse.