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What are laxatives and herbal diuretics?

Laxatives and herbal diuretics are over-the-counter (OTC) medications/compounds. Laxatives are intended for people suffering from constipation. Laxative variations target different functions including softening stools, lubricating the intestine, bulking up a stool for easy elimination or stimulating a bowel movement through muscle contractions. Herbal diuretics reduce fluid retention.

Laxatives and herbal diuretics are available in pill, crushed leaf, powder, capsule and liquid form.

Senna or bisacodyl are active ingredients often contained in brand name stimulant laxatives. A few brand names offering stimulant laxatives include Dulcolax, Senokot, Perdiem, Peri-Colace and Ex-Lax. Uva-ursi, golden seal and rose hips are common herbal laxative treatments. Herbal diuretic treatments include dandelion root, hawthorn berries and horsetail extract.

What do laxatives and herbal diuretics look like?

How are laxatives and herbal diuretics abused?

Taken in an effort to achieve rapid weight loss, stimulant laxatives are the most often abused form of laxative. Commonly, abusers suffer from anorexia or bulimia nervosa eating disorders. Users fail to understand the use of laxatives eliminates waste but does not prevent calorie absorption from food. Most food and calories are absorbed in the small intestine, before ever reaching the large bowel where laxatives take effect.

Athletes competing in events with weight requirements, such as wrestlers and rowers, are prone to abusing diuretics. These athletes often combine diuretic use with rigorous workout regimens in an effort to lose water weight quickly.

How do laxatives and herbal diuretics affect a person?

People often report feeling lighter or thinner after using laxatives or herbal diuretics.

When employed in a healthy manner, laxatives provide relief from constipation. A doctor might suggest a prescription diuretic to treat fluid retention in patients suffering from heart, liver or kidney disease. Unless recommended by a doctor to manage a particular illness, it is best to avoid OTC diuretics as they provide no real health benefits.

What are the health effects/risks of using laxatives and herbal diuretics?

Negative side effects of laxative use can include dehydration, electrolyte depletion, diarrhea or gas-related pain. Extended use of laxatives can prevent proper absorption of important vitamins, minerals or prescription medications.

Prolonged overuse of stimulant laxatives may cause dependence, long-term damage to intestinal linings, infections and irritable bowel syndrome. A condition known as “lazy bowel syndrome” can occur with a loss of bowel muscle tone and strength. Lazy bowel sufferers experience chronic constipation.

One of the primary dangers with both laxative and herbal diuretic abuse is extreme dehydration. Severe dehydration can cause dangerous chain reactions in the body leading to tremors, blurred vision, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, chest pains, delirium, unconsciousness, vital organ failure and death.