Laxatives are used to relieve or prevent constipation. They work by drawing water into the bowel, softening the stool, and making it easier to pass. However, laxatives also work as a diuretic, which means they can cause dehydration. Laxative abuse has become a major problem in recent years. Laxative abuse includes taking laxatives in order to lose weight or because of addiction to the drug. Abuse can lead to severe electrolyte imbalance, irregular heartbeat, kidney damage, bone fractures, and death.
Why are Laxatives Abused?
Despite the risks associated with laxative abuse, people still misuse laxatives for various reasons. Some may use them because they mistakenly believe they have chronic constipation when they are actually suffering from another condition like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Others may take them out of desperation when they are unable to access stronger medication for digestive discomfort. There is a common misconception that laxatives are safe to use as frequently or to whatever quantity you want without risking any major side effects. This belief has lead many to become reliant on laxatives as a form of weight management, sometimes as part of an existing eating disorder.
People with eating disorders may abuse laxatives with the belief that they will lose weight by removing all the contents of the large intestine. In reality, laxatives work by diverging water from other organs to ease intestinal discomfort and constipation. This is effectively causing dehydration, which can be detrimental to organ function in the long run.
Laxative Abuse Signs and Symptoms
Knowing the signs and symptoms of laxative abuse is important for prevention. If you or a loved one exhibit any of these signs, it is important to consult a physician as soon as possible.
Symptoms of laxative abuse include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Frequent trips to the bathroom
- Mood swings or other emotional changes
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Heart palpitations
Early intervention for laxative abuse can prevent serious damage to your physical health. However, even if you acknowledge there is a laxative abuse problem, it may not seem like a big deal. Underestimating the dangers of laxative abuse can stand in the way of finding help.
The Dangers of Laxative Abuse
Laxatives can be abused in a number of ways. Some people may take laxatives for weight loss and to counter compulsive eating. This form of disordered eating should be addressed in tandem with laxative abuse treatment. Despite misconceptions about their low risk, some laxatives may be addictive.
In order to understand the dangers of laxative abuse, consider this:
- Electrolytes are important minerals that help maintain the body’s balance of fluids. When laxatives are consumed, the resulting fluid loss reduces potassium and sodium levels as well. This leads to an electrolyte imbalance which can negatively impact organ functions.
- Laxatives have been linked with higher risks of heart attacks and strokes due to their diuretic effects on the body.
- Excessive use of laxatives, especially in a short window of time, can lead to life-threatening stomach issues such as perforation or twisting, interfering with the ability of food to move through the intestines correctly.
How is Laxative Abuse Treated?
Laxative abuse often requires a multifaceted approach to recovery that addresses both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction. Discontinuing laxative abuse may cause withdrawal symptoms like stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, headaches, and dehydration. A medically supervised detox treatment program may be necessary to address these symptoms and begin the recovery process. From here, specialized therapies designed to address the roots of addiction may be necessary to maintain independence from laxative use.
If laxative abuse is co-occurring with an eating disorder like Bulimia or Binge Eating Disorder, seeking help from a certified eating disorder treatment facility can help you on your path to recovery. Eating Disorder Solutions in Dallas, Texas specializes in providing dual diagnosis care and can help you navigate your unique journey of recovery.
What To Eat and Drink After Abusing Laxatives
It’s important to remember that laxatives work as a diuretic and can cause dehydration. That is why it is crucial to stay hydrated and avoid excessive use of laxative medications. Drinking too much water in a short period can lead to a life threatening condition called Hyponatremia, so properly managing your water intake throughout the day is vital. Rather than using laxatives to aid in constipation relief, eating fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables will help keep your digestive system healthy and reduce the likelihood of constipation.
Laxative Addiction Treatment and Prevention
Laxative addiction, also called phosphate addiction, is a condition that occurs when someone ingests large amounts of sodium phosphate or other types of laxatives. One way to avoid the risk of addiction or abuse is to make sure the correct dosage is followed.
If you feel like laxatives are controlling your life and you can’t stop, help is out there. Recovery centers like Eating Disorder Solutions help clients carefully rehydrate and stabilize the body’s electrolytes and minerals under the supervision of medical professionals with experience treating eating disorders. As you return to more normal eating and restore electrolyte balances, dietitians can help with eating plans that prevent constipation and other digestive issues. Drinking plenty of fluids, slowly increasing fiber in the diet through eating fruits, vegetables, whole-grain, breads, and whole-grain cereals, and exercising regularly are each important. All of these steps can help restore regular intestinal functions. Treatment also addresses the mental health aspects of laxative abuse through therapy to help develop healthy coping skills, self-confidence and self-acceptance as part of a comprehensive treatment program.
Eating Disorder Solutions
Eating disorders are difficult to deal with, but there is hope. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or laxative abuse, it’s important to get help. Eating Disorder Solutions is a premier eating disorder treatment center in Dallas that can help overcome laxative abuse.
At Eating Disorder Solutions, we offer personalized treatment plans designed with you in mind. Our person-centered approach to care means we take the time to understand your specific needs and use this information to determine the most effective means of achieving lasting recovery. Our treatment centers maintain a recovery-focused, judgement-free environment centered around helping you overcome harmful habits and develop a healthier relationship with food and your body. Our small treatment population and team of compassionate experts mean you get the dedicated care you need for success.
Don’t let laxative abuse or other disordered eating habits control your life. Call Eating Disorder Solutions today at 855-907-1868.