What are the potential side effects of common laxatives?


Quick Answer

Many laxatives cause bloating, cramping, diarrhea and abdominal irritation, reports Mayo Clinic. Stool softeners can cause electrolyte imbalance, which can cause weakness, confusion, seizures and other serious conditions if not corrected. If not taken with enough water, bulking laxatives can actually cause constipation instead of relieve it.

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Full Answer

One of the chief dangers of laxatives is a potential interference with the body's ability to absorb nutrients and minerals, according to Mayo Clinic. This can lead to malnutrition and prevent patients from receiving the full effect of their medications.

Prolonged laxative usage can cause the body to become dependent on them to have a bowel movement, warns Mayo Clinic. This effect is often seen in people with eating disorders, but it can appear if someone uses laxatives to treat constipation for longer than seven days. Laxative abuse can also lead to severe dehydration, which can result in death in some extreme cases, according to the National Eating Disorders Association. It can also permanently damage the colon.

Laxative use can be dangerous in some scenarios, states Mayo Clinic. If constipation is caused by a bowel obstruction, appendicitis or some other serious condition, laxatives can worsen the situation. Because of the complications around laxative use, Mayo Clinic suggests eating a fiber-rich diet before using laxatives.

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