Is it dangerous to take laxatives to lose weight?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

I know a lady who told me she lost alot of weight by taking over the counter laxatives. Is this dangerous?

Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

Taking laxatives to lose weight can be very dangerous. Laxatives are medications that are taken to induce a bowel movement, and many are sold in the drug stores over the counter. Many people think that taking laxatives can lead to weight loss, but I would caution you that laxatives cause only a loss of water weight. This "weight loss" will immediately go away once the body's fluid balance is restored. To lose real body weight with laxatives, you would have to abuse the laxatives, taking them so much and for so long that you could cause real harm to your body.

Laxatives work to cause a bowel movement by stimulating large intestine, not the small intestine, where calorie absorption occurs. The side effect of laxative overuse: 1) Runny, unpredictable frequency of stools (accidents are a real possiblity) 2) Stomach pain/cramping 3) Nausea and vomiting 4) Electrolyte imbalances (which could be life-threatening if they get very low) 5) Laxative dependence (this is where you cannot have a BM without using a laxative)

Thinking about the side effects of laxative overuse compared to the possible benefit of some mild weight loss, the reality is it is just much safer and better for your body to use portion control, exercise, and eating right to lose weight. Good luck!