Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Taking Stimulant Laxatives For Weight Loss Is Playing With Fire

One of the most troubling aspects of our society's demand for perfection in terms of weight and beauty is the length to which desperate people will go to try to attain the unreachable. Despondency reaches its ultimate peak when otherwise intelligent and prudent individuals resort to the unthinkable.

When it comes to weight loss at any cost, many will turn to laxatives to give them what they perceive to be an extra edge in this sickening game. If I can lose 30 pounds through diet alone, then surely I can lose 50 with the help of a little Ex-Lax, right? What could it hurt since I'll reach my weight loss goal in record time?

Let me just say this right off the bat--if you are reading this right now and think this is a good way to go about losing weight, then listen to me very carefully. You have an eating disorder that needs immediate medical assistance. See your doctor about it as soon as possible.

It's a very serious condition called bulimia and I've heard from many bulimics in my e-mail box. This subject is so prevalent nowadays that there's even a Swedish author writing a book about eating disorders to help people who find themselves in this situation.

Because bulimia has sadly become commonplace in modern culture, I thought it would be educational to look at what laxatives do to your body and why it is a myth that they can help you lose weight better and faster. You might want to print this blog post out if you, a friend, or family member is taking laxatives while dieting.

The perception about laxatives is that they help remove the calories from the foods you eat which in turn will keep your body from storing it as fat. Additionally, laxatives are thought to be a good way to "empty" the stomach when you are full to relieve the discomfort associated with your stomach after a meal.

But the truth of the matter is the calories that are removed from the body through the use of laxatives is statistically negligible and people who use laxatives as a weight loss aid could very well be harming themselves in the process.

Keep in mind, I'm not referring to any bulk-forming fiber supplementation that you may take such as Metamucil, Citrucel and FiberCon while livin' la vida low-carb. These are all indeed an excellent way to properly cleanse your body naturally and safely and I highly recommend it.

Instead, I'm referring to what is known as "stimulant laxatives" like Ex-Lax, Senokot and Correctol. These are BAD NEWS and should NOT be a part of your weight loss strategy. Why? Because they work to artificially stimulate the nerve endings in your colon which is at the end of the digestive tract, all that's left of the food you've consumed by the time it gets there are the most nutrient-void parts of what you ate.

Keep in mind that the colon is where your body absorbs the electrolytes and water you eat and drink. If none of this is present because of the stimulant laxatives you have taken for weight loss, then your body runs into some very real dangers, including:

- Electrolyte disorders like low blood potassium which can paralyze your body, cause an irregular heartbeat, and quite possibly kill you. Your body needs electrolytes in the exact amounts it normally self-regulates so your nerves, muscles, and heart will work correctly.

- Dehydration occurs when stimulant laxatives rob your body of necessary liquid before it reaches the colon. This can lead to muscle cramps, tremors, fainting spells, and, again, even death.

- Damage to nerve endings in the colon is also a very real concern because these nerve endings are what the body relies on to excrete waste from the body. If the stimulant laxatives render these nerve endings useless, then the result could be a total loss of control over bowel movements and even leaking of the rectum. Taking extra laxatives to try to resolve this problem could permanently damage nerve endings.

- Water weight loss that results from the use of a stimulant laxative is only temporary because the amount of weight reduced on the scale will go back up again once the body is properly rehydrated again. Failure to drink ample fluids can cause the body to faint and may lead to death.

- As previously stated, calories are not burned or removed when you use stimulant laxatives because most of the calories in the food you have consumed are absorbed in the small intestines before it reaches the colon. Studies from Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders, Inc. have shown this to be true even when the caloric intake is much higher. The body absorbs most of the calories despite the use of the laxative.

Finally, be sure if you use an herbal tea supplement on your low-carb lifestyle that you look out for ones that contain any of the following ingredients: senna, aloe, buckhorn, rhubarb root, cascara, or castor oil. If used in excess, then even this plant-based laxative can cause some pretty serious issues like diarrhea, nausea,
vomiting, stomach cramps, and quite possibly lead your colon to stop working altogether. Yikes!

If you are currently taking stimulant laxatives to help your weight loss efforts, then stop doing that and CALL YOUR DOCTOR ASAP! He or she will be happy to help you beat this before it destroys your health!

Instead of taking laxatives, try these HEALTHY weight loss aides:

- Drink a whole lotta water throughout the day
- Eats lots of low-carb, high-fiber foods
- Take a quick walk to stimulate a bowel movement

For more information on this very important topic, please read "Dangers Of Using Laxatives For Weight Loss" and "Addicted To Laxatives."

If you would like to share your story about how you abused laxatives for the purpose of weight loss and then overcame it, then I'd be happy to hear from you anytime at

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Blogger Alex said...

Thank you for this very informative article.

8/08/2007 1:26 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

You've done a great service with this post, Jimmy!! Excellent!

8/08/2007 5:18 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Here's a comment from regular reader Jeri with some EXCELLENT additional info:

Wow, Jimmy--I can relate to the Potassium. Because of food poisoning 2 weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital ER, and diagnosed w/Hypokalemia (extremely low potassium). It was to the point where my heart had developed an arrhythmia, I was fatigued to the point of crying all the time, I couldn't regulate my body temp, and could barely function. It was awful. The cure? Some amazingly awful tasting Potassium slime, an IV with Potassium, and orders to eat as much in my diet as possible along with a supplement. I'm finding it hard to eat enough spinach, greens and mushrooms (as whole baked potatoes, bananas and fruit/V8 juice have the biggest dose of potassium) to get the minimum 2000 mgs needed daily. I notice if I don't have enough, the next day I am back to being sluggish, and many of the other symptoms come back. VERY SCARY. I can't believe that people would actually flirt with permanently injuring their hearts in an effort to drop weight. Desperation is an awful thing...

I’m copying some information on potassium below for your readers. Notice that Hypokalemia is a risk of a low carb/high protein diet and that recommendations regarding the minimum daily requirements may be changing upward. This is something we all need to pay attention to while livin’ la vida low carb!

Potassium (excerpted from this web site)

Potassium is a mineral found in a variety of foods including milk, whole grains, dried beans, fruits, vegetables, and fruit juices. This mineral helps maintain water balance, is important for proper functioning of nerves and muscles including the heart, and promotes cellular growth. Potassium is readily absorbed along all of the small intestine.

Minimum daily requirements are 2,000 mg or 2 grams per day for health. A recommendation of 3,500 mg has been suggested as a higher intake of potassium has been associated with lowering blood pressure.

It is unusual to find a potassium deficiency if a person is eating a varied diet. However, bariatric surgeries initially limit food intake so it requires a little more thought to ensure proper amounts of potassium in the diet with such low food and calorie consumption. Other factors that put people at risk of a potassium deficiency are those on diuretics like Lasix, high protein diets, and/or someone with excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea. Bowel prep the day before surgery can cause potassium levels to drop too low so it is wise to make sure you are getting plenty of potassium at least the week before surgery. If potassium is too low or high, it may cause surgery to be cancelled and rescheduled.

Symptoms of low potassium are loss of appetite, muscle cramps, confusion and apathy and/or constipation. If potassium levels are too low, it can eventually cause an irregular heartbeat. Conversely, if potassium levels are too high, it can cause the heart to beat irregularly and even to completely stop. Potassium can be monitored with blood tests.


PS: Since the food poisoning, I’m having trouble downing protein in any quantity. Fat, veggies, berries, low carb breads—no problem. I can’t consume much protein at all. I’m trying to stay true to the program, but the protein is making me sick to my stomach if I pursue it. Does anyone have any suggestions? The effects of the bad fish are lingering, even with antibiotics to try to get rid of the bacteria in my gut.

8/08/2007 9:18 PM  

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