Laxatives are substances that help eliminate bulk from the stool by altering the transit time of the intestines’ content. The most common types of laxatives contain the following chemicals: 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), sodium pentoxyfluoride (PEG-5), and magnesium oxide (E325).
Though they serve a purpose, laxatives have no proven effect on weight loss. In fact, studies show that they may increase the risk of obesity and diabetes. Moreover, excessive use of laxatives can cause digestive issues, such as diarrhea and loss of nutrients.
Because of these factors, using laxatives to try to lose weight may not be the best way to go about it. Still, if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), a condition that causes you to have intermittent diarrhea, then using laxatives may be the only treatment option left to you.
How Do IBS And Obesity Linked?
If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time, then you know that we often tackle issues of obesity and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) together. Not only do they share a lot of the same triggers and symptoms, but they’re also often found in tandem.
The connection between IBS and obesity is quite complex, and it hinges on a few different factors. First, there’s the issue of the gut flora (microorganisms that reside in the intestines). The intestinal flora of people with IBS have been found to be altered, due in part to the overgrowth of bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli). This increase in the amount of bacteria in the intestines leads to increased intestinal permeability, or the ability of the intestinal wall to expand and increase its permeability to substances and particles in the gut. As a result of this increased permeability, the toxins, food particles, and various allergens that are normally contained within the gut may now cause or contribute to IBS symptoms.
Laxatives Not For Everyone
Though they may help some people with IBS, laxatives are not for everyone. In fact, due to the numerous adverse effects that they may have, it’s best to avoid them if possible. The most important factor to consider before taking any sort of laxative is your doctor’s prescription. Don’t try to self-diagnose and treat yourself with over-the-counter (OTC) products unless your doctor has given you the green light to do so. In most cases, OTC laxatives won’t be effective at treating IBS, and they may even cause more harm than good.
Why Aren’t Laxatives Effective For Weight Loss?
Though they’re not proven to be effective for weight loss, researchers have studied the effects of various types of laxatives on the bodies of obese people. The majority of these studies have shown that while some of the OTC products may cause weight loss in the short term, they often have more harmful effects. In some cases, these OTC products may even contribute to weight gain.
The reason that OTC laxatives aren’t effective for weight loss is that they don’t provide any lasting effects. When they work, they tend to do so by enhancing the mobility of the stool in the gut. That is, they increase the frequency with which the food moves through the digestive system, which in turn causes weight loss. However, it’s not the case that OTC laxatives provide any sort of structural changes to the digestive system. In fact, in many cases, they may even cause its contraction due to prolonged usage (more than 3 weeks). In this way, overuse of OTC laxatives may lead to chronic constipation, which in turn may cause weight gain. Constipation is not something to take lightly, especially as it may lead to serious health issues such as hemorrhoids and diabetes. For this reason, OTC laxatives should not be used for more than three weeks at a time, and their effects on weight should be monitored regularly.
Choosing The Right Treatment For IBS
If you’re struggling with IBS and are looking for something to help reduce your symptoms, then you have multiple options available to you. Though many people choose to self-diagnose and treat themselves with OTC laxatives, there are safer and more effective remedies available. These include the following:
- Probiotics: These are live microorganisms that provide health benefits to the host (the person using them). Though they don’t always prove effective as a means of weight loss, in many cases, they can help reduce intestinal permeability, the cause of many IBS symptoms.
- Celiac disease: Though it’s not exactly the same as IBS, celiac disease is often mistaken for IBS. It’s a lifelong autoimmune condition that causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine, eventually destroying it. The only way to diagnose celiac disease is through a biopsy, though there are reliable blood tests to determine whether you’re at risk.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These are essential fatty acids that the body can’t make on its own. It is therefore necessary to consume them in the form of fatty fish or plant oils. The omega-3 fatty acids that are most commonly found in fish are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). When consumed in sufficient quantities, these substances have been shown to greatly reduce the intensity of IBS symptoms.
- Fermented foods: These are foods that have undergone bacterial fermentation. Because of their natural antibacterial properties, these foods serve as a very effective means of improving one’s gut flora, which in turn may greatly reduce the frequency of IBS symptoms. Examples of fermented foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
- Grapefruit: Though it doesn’t appear to have direct effects on the digestive system, grapefruit has been shown to boost the body’s natural detoxification processes. As a result of this property, it has the potential to greatly reduce the toxic load in the body, including that which is linked with IBS.
In most cases, IBS occurs when there is some imbalance between the bacteria that are present in the digestive system and those that are present in the intestines. Though there are many different imbalances that can result in IBS, none of them are caused by a lack of fiber in the diet. In most cases, IBS is caused by an excess of certain bacteria or a deficiency of others. This means that a high-fiber diet won’t necessarily lead to the relief of IBS symptoms. Still, it often helps to increase the microbial balance in the digestive system, particularly in the colon (the large intestine). Increasing the microbial balance of the colon decreases the chances of colonic fermentation, which in turn reduces the production of toxic gases that contribute to IBS symptoms. This is why it is often advised to eat a high-fiber diet in conjunction with supplements that contain beneficial bacteria.
Do Laxatives Help With Diaper Rash?
Laxatives don’t always cause diarrhea, and in many cases, they can be used to treat skin rashes caused by poison ivy, oak, and sumac. In these cases, the rash will resolve itself once the person using the laxative stops doing so. Though this can be effective in some instances, it may not be the best solution in all situations. It is always advisable to consult your doctor before using any type of over-the-counter (OTC) product to treat a rash, particularly a skin rash that occurs in infants and small children. In these cases, laxatives may be the only effective treatment option available to doctors and parents alike.
More Info On Laxatives
Though laxatives come in a variety of forms, including liquid and powder, they are typically administered through enemas (i.e. rectal cleansing). This method has been around since the 1500s, and it was originally used as a way to clear the colon of parasites (worms, mostly). Because of their cleansing effects, laxatives are considered to be one of the most efficient and least harmful ways of removing toxins and harmful substances from the body. Moreover, the use of an enema allows for the easy passage of medicine and nutrients into the colon, where they can do the most good. This method has been proven effective in many different types of cancer, as well as conditions that cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues. Though they come with many health benefits, laxatives should not be used by anyone if they’re not prescribed by a doctor.