Editor's note: This week we have a special guest post from a member of our coaching team, Jessyca Reynolds.
I'm seeing a disturbing trend in many keto conversations recently: lots and lots of talk about laxatives. In fact, it is such a popular topic that it has come up a minimum of ten times in the last week alone!
Each time I see laxative talk, alarm bells start going off. Conversations that scare me are the ones that begin with queries like, "I'm feeling really bloated, what can I do?" to which multiple people jump in to suggest using laxatives as the solution. Other concerning conversations typically go something like the following: "I was close to 'onederland' so I did a 'cleanse' with a whole bottle of magnesium citrate, and I'm down another two pounds and under two hundred pounds for the first time in years!" This delcaration is inevitably by a plethora of congratulations and many declarations as to what a good idea the "cleanse" was. I have also seen multiple confession/cheat discussions wherein the the use of laxatives to try and undo the damage is an uncomfortably common suggestion.
What's the Problem?
The primary reason laxative abuse chatter is a problem is because it is indicative of disordered- and dangerous- thinking. Any time you make a decision to "purge" your body to "undo" an indulgence, or to lose a couple of pounds, or to get rid of bloat, that's the solution of the bulimic. Whether you purge by vomiting, excessive exercise, or misusing laxatives, it's all a result of the disordered belief that you can erase a mistake, while using a method that is bad for your health.
Ketogenic life is all about regaining a healthy mind and body, and this purging mentality we see surrounding laxative use is dangerous and couterproductive to health. In addition to being mentally unhealthy, there may be physical ramifications which can be very severe. Frequent use and/or abuse of laxatives leads to physical dependency. Your body will begin to require the stimulants, and your digestive system eventually won't function well without them. Over time you will build a tolerance to them; maybe a bottle of magnesium citrate worked for you in the beginning, but it won't be long before you will need more and more to get the same result. This can cause serious damage to your metabolism, can leave you dehydrated and depleted of electrolytes and other nutrients, and eventually may cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
It Happened to Me
I know, first-hand, all about laxative abuse because I am a recovering bulimic and it happened to me. It sounds absurd to me now, but it all began with the idea that I could lose a couple of pounds quickly, or undo a binge, by flushing my system with laxatives. There was a point in my twenties where I was using up to 77 laxatives a day. Laxative abuse sent me to the hospital- severely dehydrated with alarmingly elevated blood pressure and low electrolytes- more than once. I'm now in my forties, and although ketogenic living is doing a lot to help heal the damage I did to my body, I still have ongoing medical problems stemming from those years of abuse.
A Word of Warning
I hope you'll read this and take it seriously. Unless your doctor has ordered laxatives as a presurgery cleanse, or to treat a specific and temporary issue you may have, I would not advise anyone to take them. If you are truly having medical issues with elimination, partner with you doctor to identify and correct the source of the problem instead of taking matters into your own hands.