Side effects of laxatives

Laxatives should only be used for a short period of time, as they can have serious side effects over time. Most laxatives are generally not designed to be taken for more than a week or two. Because if laxatives are used long-term, there is a risk that the irritation of the intestine will lead to an increase in colon polyps. If these intestinal polyps have reached a certain size, they can degenerate and  colon cancer  can develop.

Bloating and abdominal cramps as side effects

Bloating  and mild abdominal cramps  can generally occur when taking laxatives  . However, diarrhea  should not occur. If this is the case, the laxative was probably taken in excessive doses or used too frequently. As a rule, it should be sufficient to take the laxative every two to three days. To determine the correct dosage of the laxative, you should consult your doctor or a pharmacist.

Taking laxatives over a longer period of time can quickly become habituation. Emptying the stool without a laxative is then not possible or only possible with difficulty. Once the habituation effect has set in, larger and larger doses are required in order to still be able to achieve a laxative effect. If the drugs are discontinued, the intestines only work to a limited extent over a longer period of time.

Potassium deficiency as a dangerous side effect

When you take laxatives, you often lose more water and minerals. This can lead to the intestinal activity being reduced even further. In the long run, taking laxatives can end up in a vicious circle, which in the worst case can lead to addiction.

The loss of too much  potassium in particular  can lead to disorders in various organs. This includes the kidneys and the heart, but also the muscles. Muscle weakness,  cardiac arrhythmia , bladder paralysis and liver disorders can occur.

Changes can also occur in the intestine itself as a result of taking laxatives: for example, the intestinal wall can thin over time and the intestinal muscles can be   weakened by the lack of potassium . If the muscles are weakened, the intestines can no longer push the contents in the direction of the outlet and  constipation occurs again  – which, however, is caused by the laxative itself.

Particularly severe side effects may occur when taking laxatives containing bisacodyl or phenolphthalein, as well as plant extracts containing anthraquinone, such as aloe or senna leaves. There is a suspicion that long-term use of laxatives increases the risk of certain types of cancer, such as urinary tract tumors.

Interactions with laxatives

If laxatives are taken, interactions with various medications such as birth control pills can occur. Some medications can be limited in their effectiveness, others can be increased. For more information, you should take a close look at the leaflet that came with your laxative or contact a doctor or pharmacist.

laxatives during pregnancy

Zwischen 10 und 30 Prozent aller schwangeren Frauen haben während der Schwangerschaft mit Verstopfungen zu kämpfen. Je weiter die Schwangerschaft fortgeschritten ist, desto häufiger treten Verstopfungen auf. Dies ist darauf zurückzuführen, dass der Körper während der Schwangerschaft verstärkt Hormone produziert, die sich negativ auf die Tätigkeit des Darms auswirken. Zudem können auch die zunehmende Vergrößerung der Gebärmutter, veränderte Essgewohnheiten sowie wenig Bewegung während der Schwangerschaft die Entstehung von Verstopfungen begünstigen.

In general, laxatives should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding. If constipation occurs, you should first try to resolve it naturally. In addition, swelling agents such as  linseed , wheat bran or  psyllium can  help.

Laxatives containing anthraquinone are not suitable during pregnancy and breastfeeding. They can cause uterine contractions and pass into breast milk after birth. As a result, side effects can also occur in the newborn. Before taking a laxative, pregnant women and nursing mothers should always consult their doctor.


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