Eating Disorders and Laxative Abuse

Laxative abuse is a common symptom of some kinds of eating disorders. It is a serious problem that can result in devastating health complications and several elevated health risks. Extended abuse of laxatives can even result in death. What is laxative abuse?

Laxative abuse refers to the sustained use of laxatives by individuals who are struggling to lose weight or as a means to ‘lose’ unwanted calories. Some laxative abusers report a desire to feel empty and thin, and use laxatives in order to achieve these feelings. Laxative abuse represents a misuse of these commonly available over the counter drugs. They should only be used for the recommended purposes, and must never be used in order to lose weight.

Risk Factors

Who is more likely to abuse laxatives? People who suffer from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are more likely to abuse laxatives. Most laxative abuse occurs after a period of food binging. The eating disorder patient attempts to empty the body of food and calories by promoting a bowel movement.

The eating disorder patient as part of their weight loss regiment often adopts laxative abuse. They may view the use of laxative as a way of controlling their weight while still being able to consume the foods that they love. However, laxative abuse is an untenable habit that can result in serious health risks and complications. Unfortunately, most eating disorder patients do not realize this because they are not familiar with the laxative myth.

What is the Laxative Myth?

The laxative myth refers to the mistaken belief that food and calories can be “rushed” and emptied out through the bowels through the use of laxatives. In reality, our digestive system and laxatives do not work in this manner, and it is not really possible to achieve permanent and stable weight loss simply through the consumption of laxatives. In most cases, by the time laxatives are absorbed and used by the large intestine, most calories and foods have already been absorbed.

Our other (smaller) kidney absorbs the food and calories we consume long before laxatives can go to work. However, laxative abuse can lead to weight loss, but it is negative weight loss. What does this mean? When laxatives are abused, it is not fat and calories that are burned.

Water Weight

In fact, laxative abuse can cause your body to lose important nutrients such as electrolytes, minerals, indigestible fiber and water. These nutrients are what most of us refer to as “water weight.” Losing water weight does not result in permanent weight loss and if it is lost on a consistent basis it can result in health complications. Moreover, this water weight is immediately restored as soon as fluids are consumed.

Many individuals who suffer from laxative abuse may try to avoid re-hydration in order to avoid gaining weight. Those who refuse to re-hydrate may suffer from serious health complications. These health complications may obviously result in dehydration. The more that the individual refuses to drink fluids, the greater the health risks they may suffer. Health risks may include permanent damage to vital organs, and in severe cases, death may result.