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Laxative Abuse

What is the harm in abusing laxatives?

Laxative abuse can be very harmful and fatal. Laxative abuse is not an effective weight-loss method.

  • You can upset your electrolyte balance. Electrolytes are minerals like sodium and potassium that are dissolved in the blood and other body fluids. They must be present in very specific amounts and exact ratios for proper functioning of nerves and muscles, including the heart muscle.
  • Laxatives can cause muscle cramps, tremors, spasms, irregular heartbeat, and in some cases cardiac arrest.
  • Laxatives remove needed fluid from the body. The resulting dehydration can lead to tremors, weakness, blurry vision, fainting spells, kidney damage, and in some cases death. Severe dehydration requires medical treatment. Drinking fluid may not hydrate cells and tissues quickly enough to prevent organ damage or death.
  • Laxatives irritate intestinal nerve endings, which in turn stimulate muscle contractions that move the irritant through the gut and out of the body. After a while the nerve endings no longer respond to stimulation. The person must now take greater and greater amounts of laxatives to produce bowel movements. S/he has become laxative dependent and without artificial stimulation may not have any bowel movements at all.
  • Laxatives strip away protective mucus that lines the colon, leaving it vulnerable to infection.
  • Laxatives abusers seem to have more trouble with rectal pain, gas, and episodes of constipation and diarrhea, and bowel tumors.
  • Non-responsive bowels.

  

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