Cathartic Colon Linked to Bulimia and Laxative Abuse

New research shows a link between people with cathartic colon disease and the eating disorder bulimia. Cathartic colon is a dangerous condition that may do irreversible damage to the bowels.

If you take laxatives to purge excess calories, you should know that you may have bulimia and that this behavior may cause cathartic colon.

Bulimia—It's Not Just Throwing Up

Usually, thanks to the media and pop culture depictions, when people think of bulimia, they think of people purging their food by inducing vomiting. Some people don't even realize that they have bulimia because they don't force themselves to throw up; these people are dangerously deluded about their own health condition.

Not everyone with bulimia purges. Some people will go on extreme food fasts after binge eating, while others will go on intense exercise sprees to sweat off the calories. Others do purge, but instead of vomiting, they use laxatives to rid themselves of excess calories.

Not only is this ineffective—your body already absorbed the majority of calories during and shortly after eating—but laxative abuse can have terrible consequences.

Cathartic Colon

Cathartic colon occurs when there is nerve damage in the bowls. This causes the colon wall to thin out, and in time, the colon will stop functioning.

Doctors estimate that using laxatives three or more times per week for a year can cause the condition. Laxatives overstimulate the bowels and irritating the nerves. This eventually weakens the muscles. Ultimately, the colon will cease to function entirely.

This is a rare condition that doctors know little about, but the link between cathartic colon and bulimia is now clear. Doctors have come to see the condition as a red flag for bulimia.

Symptoms

Early signs of cathartic colon include bloating and abdominal pain. The sufferer may experience an uncomfortably full feeling.

Stools may get watery, and sufferers may have difficulty evacuating fecal matter. Stool can build up in the colon and stretch it out, making it even more difficult for the organ to function.

Treatment

Once symptoms of a cathartic colon are discovered, the use of laxatives should immediately cease. If caught in the early stages, it is possible that the damage can be reversed, but it will be a long and slow process.

Unfortunately, the only current treatment available for serious cases is surgery.

Laxatives are a useful medicine in some cases, but they can be dangerous when abused. If you have been using laxatives unnecessarily or for weight control, talk to your doctor about a possible eating disorder and get a check-up on your colon's health.

Sources: Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association, National Institutes of Health, American Journal of Medicine

Photo: Pixabay

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