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Ozempic is all the rage for weight loss right now and promises to help people lose weight using nothing more than a weekly injection.
But its prohibitively high price (nearly $900 per dose without insurance) has many turning to “cheap” alternatives like laxatives, which can help people lose weight by speeding up the digestive tract and expelling food from the body more quickly.
But Dr. Swrajit Sarkar, a nutritionist at City University of London, said laxatives don’t help people lose fat: they only remove water weight.
Dr. Sarkar said, “Although laxative use causes water loss, it does not cause fat loss.”
“This means that any weight a person loses through the use of laxatives is only temporary, and any water lost will be regained.”
Additionally, removing too much water from the body can cause a number of dangerous side effects, such as muscle cramps, diarrhea, and seizures.
With the growing popularity of inexpensive laxatives like Ozempic, they have become scarce in the US (file image)
People have been taking laxatives as a kind of cheap Ozempic, causing shortages across the country.
Laxatives are available in several forms, including stimulant laxatives, which cause more frequent bowel movements, and osmotic laxatives, which draw water into the intestine to “eliminate” the contents more quickly.
While laxatives may occasionally be recommended in some situations, including to cleanse the intestines for screening tests or help with constipation, taking them almost every day for up to a week leaves patients at risk for complications.
Laxatives are purchased without a prescription, many pills cost less than 50 cents, and their effects last from two to 16 hours.
They have become so popular for weight loss that there was a shortage of them in 2023, with teenagers reportedly stocking up on these products.
Someone who has very frequent bowel movements will initially lose a pound or two because digested food and water is quickly removed from the body, but they are not losing weight due to fat and by the time they drink or eat another food, the weight lost increases. all recovered.
And if someone takes too many laxatives too often, they may become dependent on them and not be able to defecate without them.
Laxatives differ from the way Ozempic causes weight loss, which is by mimicking hormones that decrease feelings of hunger and slow down bowel movement, making people feel fuller for longer.
While some may turn to laxatives to lose weight cheaply and quickly, Dr. Sarkar wrote about the potential risks in The conversationwhich reveals the four dangers people should be aware of when taking laxatives too often:
Dr. Sarkar said laxatives can leave someone at risk for muscle cramps caused by dehydration.
Laxatives Can Cause Muscle Cramps, Doctors Warn (stock)
The human body is made up of 60 percent water and adults are recommended to drink about 15 cups a day to maintain this amount.
But when someone takes over-the-counter medications, they cause the body to lose water quickly by speeding up the digestive system, causing it to suck water from the body.
If someone does not drink enough to make up for the loss, it can lead to dehydration.
This causes cramps due to lack of water, which reduces blood flow to the muscles, depriving them of the nutrients and oxygen needed to function properly.
The “expelling” of water from the body caused by laxatives can also increase the risk of seizures, doctors said.
The body’s water contains electrolytes, which are vital for multiple biological processes and communication between nerves.
But these are quickly lost with each bowel movement, increasing the risk of complications.
An electrolyte deficiency can cause irregular heartbeats, confusion, and even seizures.
Doctors at Decipher Your Health, a Canadian company whose goal is to educate the public about healthcare, warned of this serious complication.
In a video posted on Tiktok, an emergency medicine (EM) doctor said: ‘(Laxatives) can cause problems where certain electrolytes drop to such a low level that you risk seizures, dehydration and death.
‘Any of these short-lived benefits of seeing the scale change by just a pound or two are simply not worth it.’
Seizures can occur due to an imbalance of nutrients within the nerves, which increases the risk of “nervous excitability,” or cells firing abnormal electrical impulses that trigger a seizure.
The imbalance also increases the risk of other complications, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, and numbness in the extremities.
People who use laxatives are also at risk of deficiencies (stock)
Dr. Sarkar also warned that laxatives can cause nutrient deficiencies, including too few vitamins, carbohydrates and proteins in the body.
Foods provide hundreds of vitamins and minerals that are crucial for overall health and are normally absorbed by the small intestine.
But because laxatives increase the speed at which food moves through the intestine, there is not enough time for the body to fully absorb the nutrients, which can lead to deficits.
One study suggests that people who take laxatives absorb up to 12 percent fewer nutrients from their diets.
And 92 percent of Americans are already deficient in at least one nutrient.
Inadequate levels of nutrition can lead to fatigue, hair loss, ulcers, poor vision, muscle atrophy and delayed growth.
Diarrhea and stomach cramps.
Laxatives increase the risk of numerous intestinal complications, such as diarrhea and stomach cramps.
Some laxatives, such as stimulant laxatives, can irritate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and cause inflammation and diarrhea.
Over-the-counter medications cause the body to remove more water from the intestine, which also increases the risk of diarrhea and stomach cramps.
Dr Sarkar said: “The reason laxatives cause diarrhea is because they work to move waste quickly through the intestine and secrete water into the intestine.
“This, in turn, can also cause an imbalance in mineral and salt levels in the body.”