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Laxative Abuse

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Q: My friend has told me that if I want to lose weight quickly I should take laxatives as well as following a diet. But isn’t this bad for your digestive system?

A: This is definitely not something I would recommend. Laxative pills are not designed to help with weight loss and consequently shouldn’t be used for this. Unfortunately, laxatives are frequently abused by people with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia in an effort to ‘purge’ themselves. However, using them unnecessarily and frequently can be dangerous and may upset the mechanism of the digestive system so that you become dependent them. Laxatives may also prevent the absorption of some nutrients, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies.

The only way to lose weight safely and sensibly is to follow a moderately reduced-calorie diet combined with taking more exercise. You should never try and lose more than 2lb a week – if you regularly shift more than this, you’ll be losing metabolism-boosting muscle rather than fat. And while 2lb a week might not sound a lot, it adds up to almost four stone in six months! My advice: don’t touch laxatives – and tell your friend the same.

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