When not to take laxatives and what are the risks

Laxative is a type of medicine widely used to treat constipation, especially when it is not possible to improve the problem with lifestyle changes such as increasing fiber intake, regular exercise or increasing water intake.

Although they can be used in almost all cases, some laxatives, especially osmotic and contact laxatives, can be dangerous if used by people who are allergic to the substance or who have some diseases such as:

  • Inflammatory disease or cancer of the digestive system;
  • Irritable bowel syndrome;
  • Crohn’s disease;
  • Ucerative colitis;
  • ostomates;

In these cases, laxatives irritate the intestinal mucosa and, therefore, should not be used because they can worsen the symptoms of these diseases. In addition, there are other cases in which laxatives should not be used by people either:

  • Taking opioid analgesics such as codeine or morphine;
  • Having difficulty swallowing;
  • who are lactose intolerant,
  • With phenylketonuria.

Excessive use of laxatives can also cause kidney problems due to the elimination of important mineral salts and is therefore contraindicated in cases of kidney disease.

Diabetics should also not take them because many of the laxatives have sugar in their constitution. Children under the age of 6, pregnant and lactating women should speak to their doctor before using any laxative.

Main types of laxative

There are several types of laxative:

  • Faecal bulking laxatives such  as methylcellulose, carboxymethylcellulose, or   agarol : these remedies absorb water, forming a bulky gel that dilates the colon and promotes bowel movements;
  • Osmotic laxatives such as  milk of magnesia colact , minilax or polyethylene glycol: make stools more fluid by increasing the amount of fluid in stools;
  • Contact laxatives,  agiolax , cascara sagrada, castor oil,  senan  they cause a direct stimulation of the intestinal nervous system and also stimulate the secretion of fluids and electrolytes into the colon.

Osmotic and contact laxatives are the most aggressive, so you should choose faecal volume expanders first.

How long can you use the laxative?

Ideally, laxatives should be used from time to time and for a short period of time until the constipation improves. If it comes back, the ideal is to opt for natural ways to treat constipation, such as drinking more water and eating more fiber-rich foods, such as oatmeal, raw carrots or nuts, before taking the laxative again.

If constipation occurs often, it is recommended to consult a gastroenterologist instead of taking laxatives so often.

What are the consequences of prolonged use of laxatives?

Depending on the type of laxative, its prolonged use can lead to various problems such as:

  • Dependence, causing the bowel to no longer function without the help of the laxative;
  • Swelling and abdominal pain;
  • Dehydration, due to loss of water through faeces;
  • Excessive intestinal gas;
  • frequent diarrhea.

In addition, there may also be changes in the levels of mineral salts and decreased absorption of nutrients important to the body.

Is it possible to use laxatives to lose weight?

The laxative is neither slimming nor suitable for prolonged use and therefore should not be used by people who need to lose weight. Although some of them reduce weight slightly, what happens is a decrease in body fluid and not fat, which ends up being confused with weight loss. In addition, the belly can also be less swollen because the amount of stool is smaller, which can give the feeling that you are losing weight.

Can laxative use cause cancer?

Although it is still unclear, several studies have concluded that long-term use of non-fibrous laxatives is associated with an increased risk of getting colon cancer


by Abdullah Sam
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