There’s a trend circulating on social media where users try Colon Broom, an over-the-counter laxative, which claims to “detox” the colon and help you lose weight.
The ads for Colon Broom sound too good to be true – a product that claims to boost energy, change your metabolism and eliminate bloating. The problem with these claims is there’s no scientific evidence to back them up – and colon cleanses using laxatives can lead to health problems when used incorrectly and without the expert advice of a health care professional.
What are laxatives?
Laxatives are a type of medications that help relieve constipation by softening stool or by promoting gut motility.
There are several types of laxatives, which are intended to help you relieve constipation if methods like eating more fibrous foods, drinking more water and incorporating more exercise aren’t enough. When taken under the recommendation of a health care provider, they can be safely used to help you pass stool. Here are the five most common types:
- Bulk-forming laxatives: These add fiber to your stool, helping your colon retain water and soften stool.
- Lubricant laxatives: These coat the stool to make it slippery enough to pass out of the body.
- Osmotic laxatives: These pull water from the body into the bowels to help it hold onto water and pass easier.
- Stimulant laxatives: These help the intestinal muscles contract to move stool through the colon.
- Stool softeners: These mix in water to the stool to make it softer and easier to pass.
Why laxatives don’t lead to weight loss
Laxatives like Colon Broom can cause short-term weight loss, as they soften stools and stimulate bowel movements – but the body is not losing fat; it’s losing water as the body passes stool. Often, laxatives can lead to diarrhea. While this may cause short-term feelings of being “lighter” – the effect is not long-term and does not ultimately lead to weight loss. Once you rehydrate, you will gain any water weight that was lost.
Additionally, laxatives don’t stop the body from absorbing calories – food is processed by the stomach before it gets to the large intestine.
Risks of improperly using laxatives
Overuse or improper use can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances and diarrhea as the body loses water when passing stool. People who improperly use laxatives to lose weight are also at a higher risk of developing a feeding and eating disorder.
If used for an extended period of time – longer than one week – certain types of laxatives can cause your bowel muscles to weaken. This ultimately can lead to long-term constipation if the bowels are too weak to pass stool on their own.
Long-term use of certain types of laxatives can cause intestinal damage that could put you at a greater risk of colon cancer. If there is blood in your stool or coming from your rectum, or if you don’t have any bowel movements while taking a laxative, talk to your doctor right away.
Laxatives may also stop your prescription medications from working correctly – causing any health conditions to worsen. Talk to your doctor before adding any laxatives to your daily routine.
Talk to your doctor
If you are concerned about your health or your weight, talk to your primary care provider. They can assess your health and recommend changes to your lifestyle and daily routines that are best for you.