Are Laxatives Good for Weight Loss?

Last Updated 31st March 2020
many ingredients are concerning

As you embark on your journey to lose weight and achieve your health and fitness goals, there’s no doubt that you’ll uncover hundreds, if not thousands, of products promising to help galvanize and optimise your weight loss.

As you research further into such products, you’ll discover that plenty of these products are actually laxatives – literally stimulating bowel movements to make you go to the toilet.

These weight loss products are often marketed as ‘detox teas’.

If you don’t have a constipation or underlying bowel issue, taking laxatives can result in rapid weight loss; as they allow food to pass through quickly without its nutrients (or lack thereof!) being absorbed properly by the body.

But is this a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight?

pot of green tea

How Do Laxatives Work?

Put simply: laxatives make you poo.

Laxatives stimulate the bowels and intestinal tract to speed up the flow of foodstuffs to leave the body quickly.

There are several different types of laxative, aimed at remedying different issues, but all have the same end goal.

An artificial laxative is a chemical medication, and so caution should be taken in using them without the medical need to do so.

In the context of weight loss, laxatives work by restricting the absorption of nutrients (both positive and negative) into the body.

Dependent on the type of laxative, it may be that the only actual weight lost is water excreted through the stool.

This can be effective as a short-term solution, but has been clinically proven to be ineffective as a long-term weight management aid.

There has never been a medical study to demonstrate that laxatives can work as an adequate aid to weight loss or sustainable weight management.

If you want to lose weight, it is much better to turn to other methods.

A safe and convenient weight loss aid comes in the form of weight loss shakes.

Some studies suggest that weight loss shakes are an effective way to lose weight when used alongside a calorie-restricted diet.

If you’re looking for a safe and healthy weight loss shake, take a peak at Nutribuddy’s range of shakes.

Nutribuddy shakes have the highest consumer rating on independent website, Trustpilot, out of the entire shake industry.

Nutribuddy Breakfast shake's natural wholefood ingredients
Nutribuddy Breakfast Shake is a natural, healthy weight loss shake

What Are The Side Effects of Using Laxatives?

Even if using laxatives for medical purposes, they should only be taken short-term and as advised by a Doctor.

They’re not a healthy ingredient to be consuming over a long time period and there are several connected side effects to their usage.

The most common side effect of laxatives is dehydration.

Many laxatives work by drawing water from elsewhere in the body to the intestine, to ease the flow of stools through the intestinal tract.

This water is then combined within the stool and passed from the body, leaving internal water levels lessened.

Replenishing this water is imperative to avoid dehydration. Dehydration can result in very serious health issues.

Other side effects of laxative consumption include the imbalance of electrolytes within the body (as they’ve been passed through unnaturally due to the stimulation of the bowel), gastrointestinal damage and kidney failure.

There even appears to be an instance where laxatives were proven to contribute to severe liver damage in a patient – so it really is clear that laxatives should only ever be consumed under medical guidance.

woman looking concerned

What About Natural Laxatives? Are They Healthy?

Not all laxatives are prescribed medicines or even artificially or chemically produced.

There are some naturally occurring ingredients that can similarly stimulate the intestinal system and speed up the passing of stools.

However, just because an ingredient is natural, doesn’t guarantee its safety or effectiveness.

Natural laxatives still come with the same risks as artificial ones.

sweeteners

How Can I Spot Laxatives in Weight Loss Products?

Products aimed at stimulating or increasing weight loss products may include laxatives but not explicitly state so; after all, pooing isn’t the most appealing of things to think of when you consider a new healthy, lean body and lifestyle!

Before consuming any weight loss product, study its ingredients list to best understand what you’re taking in.

Research any chemicals listed that you don’t recognise on the packaging and check to see if it could have laxative effects.

Stay mindful of laxative types too: there’s lots!

It would be impossible to memorise all of the chemicals used in artificial blends, so if in doubt, Google. 

Weight loss products can contain laxatives and still market themselves as ‘herbal’, ‘natural’ and ‘plant-based’.

Nine times out of ten this means they include Senna; a natural laxative.

Senna

Senna is a herb, of which the leaves and fruit can be consumed by humans.

It is such a strong natural laxative that consumption of it is only really done for those purposes.

It’s consumed often as a ‘detox’ tea as well as in tablets and pills that are readily available on high streets with no prescription or pharmacist intervention. It’s also frequently found in weight loss and meal replacement shakes.

Senna takes about 8 hours to work once consumed, and frequently causes stomach cramps and diarrhea as it begins to stimulate the internal organs.

People can be allergic to Senna, but such an allergy is rare.

It’s important when taking Senna as a laxative to ensure it is done so only very short-term.

When used for more than a few days at a time, it has been proven to encourage laxative dependency (whereby your internal organs begin to rely upon laxative intervention to work properly).

Despite being natural, Senna is potent enough that it can interfere with the function of other medications.

Therefore, if you are taking any other meds, you should seek medical advice before consuming Senna.

senna leaves are natural laxatives
Senna leaves are natural laxatives

‘Live Cultures’ (Probiotics)

Whilst not commonly found in weight loss products because they’re a perishable, yoghurts and other dairy drinks with live cultures can be found in some fresh weight loss products and act as a laxative – even thought they’re totally natural.

Yoghurts and drinks such as kefir contain ‘live cultures’.

These are actually probiotics: live microorganisms that are essentially healthy bacteria and some yeasts.

Other fermented products that are less perishable such as kimchi also include probiotics, but in lesser amounts. 

Probiotics, when consumed, colonise your gut along with the existing ‘good bacteria’ there to nurture the culture and overall balance of the organs.

This can stimulate your gut into functioning quicker and more efficiently.

That said, they can also have the opposite effect – there’s no guarantees when the cultures adapt to your existing unique bacteria balance, as everyone is different. 

Whilst a good dose of ‘healthy bacteria’ once in a while is a good thing, if your gut is already operating well and you don’t have any underlying health issues relating to your digestion, there’s no need to take probiotics regularly as they may disrupt your natural internal balance.

sweeteners for meal replacement shakes

Should You Use Laxatives for Weight Loss? Final Thoughts

Laxatives for weight loss are not just ineffective as a sustainable weight loss management aid – they’re downright bad for you.

Don’t be fooled by claims of ‘all natural ingredients’ or rapid weight loss results, as they are frequently just marketing spiel and have negative and dangerous undertones.

Unless you’re struggling with constipation, there is no need to take laxatives; and they should never be taken as a weight loss aid.

Instead, invest in your long-term health and manage your weight loss sustainably and safely.

You won’t regret it!

Weight loss shakes in contrast are a great addition to your diet and don’t come with any of the nasty side effects that laxatives do.

Check out Nutribuddy’s range of weight loss shakes which are made using only natural, healthy ingredients.

Nutribuddy Breakfast shake by Romylondonuk

Stock image credit: UnsplashPexels & Pixabay

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Nutribuddy Ltd.

Author Bio!

Post by Lex

I’m a full-time Marketing Manager and Copywriter but also a qualified yoga teacher and keen runner; so I know a thing or two about maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a good dose of fitness! My previous roles include marketing and social media for the likes of the household names including the Cabinet Office and Aviva. Outside of work, I’m a Mum, passionate social rights campaigner and bookworm.