People with eating disorders abuse laxatives because they incorrectly believe they can remove food from their bodies before the calories are absorbed. Often people with eating disorders are constipated because the small amount of food they eat does not provide enough bulk to stimulate regular bowel movements. Since bloating often accompanies constipation, they may take laxatives to encourage a bowel movement.
In one experiment, a group of laxative abusers ate a high calorie meal. A group of normal people ate the same food, which totaled several thousand calories. The laxative abusers took their purgatives of choice. The normal people let nature take its course. Researchers collected all the material passed in bowel movements and tested it for calorie content. Even after consuming thousands of calories and massive amounts of laxatives, the laxative abusers managed to remove only about 100 extra calories from their bodies, the amount found in one small cookie.
Laxative abuse can cause these problems:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Chronic Diarrhea: After repeated use of laxatives you eventually lose control of your rectum and may find a pile of you know what in your bed or underwear when you wake up.
- Nausea, even vomiting
- Electrolyte Disturbances: This can lead to heart arrythmias and heart attacks
- Chronic Constipation
Within 48 hours of using a laxative the body retains water to make up for all that it has lost. Talking to a health care provider is the first step toward health if laxative abuse has become a concern.