Miralax Weight Loss: The Harmful, Dangerous Effects
Laxatives of many kinds are available on the shelves of drug stores, grocery stores, and convenience stores. They are an easy to obtain item that people turn to for a wide variety of reasons. Some people need the assistance of a laxative product to alleviate occasional constipation due to medical treatments, age-related functional change, or as a side effect of pain-relieving medication. Although laxatives are beneficial when used appropriately, not all who turn to laxative products do so for medically necessary reasons. A growing number of people who struggle with symptoms related to disordered eating reach for laxative products like Miralax as a way to maintain control over food intake, calories, and weight. Laxatives are also used frequently by individuals who are required to maintain a specific weight, such as athletes or models. When used in a way that is inconsistent with labeling, the use of laxative products can lead to harmful, even dangerous effects, including addiction.
What is Miralax?
Miralax is a brand-name laxative available over the counter. It is classified as an osmotic laxative which means the laxative works in your colon to attract water and keep it there. This allows stool to become more hydrated and softer, unblocking your system without unpleasant gastrointestinal effects such as cramping. Miralax is often suggested for short-term use to treat constipation; however, it is sometimes recommended to treat chronic constipation conditions as well.
Various studies have shown that Miralax is effective in treating constipation and helping those struggling with infrequent bowel movements achieve regularity. One study showed Miralax helped people who regularly had fewer than two bowel movements per week increase frequency to 4.5 per week (compared to 2.7 with placebo). Another similar study found chronic constipation cases were reduced by 52% in those using Miralax as a laxative.
Miralax is approved as an over-the-counter laxative for adults and adolescents over the age of seventeen. It is also effective for treating constipation in younger children, including babies younger than two years of age. However, in babies and children under seventeen, it should not be used unless directed by a pediatrician or medical provider.
The Dangers of Using Miralax for Weight Loss
Miralax is recommended for various medical uses, including constipation, colonoscopy preparation diverticulitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is not recommended for weight loss, and taking a Miralax (or any laxative) for the purpose of losing weight can be dangerous.
Some people, including those who struggle with an undiagnosed or untreated eating disorder, turn to laxatives in the hope of losing (or maintaining) weight. However, Miralax and other laxatives are not effective for weight loss and may lead to harmful side effects when used inappropriately.
There is a misguided belief that laxatives help food move through your system faster, leading to fewer calories being absorbed food progresses through the body. This is a dangerous misconception. No matter how many laxatives one consumes, they will do little to limit calorie absorption. The small intestine absorbs most calories from food and beverages. Laxatives like Miralax only affect the large intestine, and therefore calorie absorption is largely complete before it arrives in the large intestine. Although one’s weight may go down shortly after taking a laxative, this is generally due to water loss, and as soon as you eat or drink something, the weight will return.
The effects and dangers of Miralax abuse can be short and long-term. When someone uses Miralax consistently, it leads to reduced levels of essential minerals in the body. These minerals, including potassium, phosphates, magnesium, and sodium, are vital to allow the muscles and systems in the body to work correctly. Without adequate amounts of these and other essential minerals, our body systems may not work correctly. Long-term laxative abuse can also lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and damage to the colon (bowel) and the digestive system. Other potentially dangerous effects of laxative abuse include vomiting, dehydration, fainting, blurry vision, depression, heart attack, muscle spasms, diarrhea, intestinal paralysis, bloody stools, electrolyte abnormalities, and increased occurrence of urinary tract infections.
In addition to the above, someone who uses Miralax regularly to lose weight or other (unprescribed) reasons is at increased risk for colon cancer, kidney failure, liver damage, damage to the bowel nerve, and damage to the gastrointestinal system. When someone experiences damage to the bowel nerve, it can result in poor function of the intestinal tract. Under these circumstances, the bowels may not operate properly, making someone feel as though they require laxatives to have proper bowel movements despite chronic and inappropriate laxative use being the cause of their ineffective bowel.
Can You Overdose on Miralax?
While you are unlikely to experience fatal overdose symptoms directly related to Miralax use, taking too much Miralax or misusing it can increase your risk of severe side effects. These side effects, depending on their severity, can lead to dangerous consequences. Symptoms of Miralax overdose can include severe stomach pain, nausea, bloating, excessive diarrhea, dehydration, thirst, and electrolyte imbalance.
Overcoming Miralax Abuse
Without treatment that addresses the root causes behind laxative addiction at Meadowglade, ongoing laxative abuse can be difficult to overcome. Someone who abuses laxatives often does so to lose weight or feel thin. Although laxatives will produce the desired result in the short term, before long, the opposite occurs. Ongoing laxative use eventually leads to water retention and bloating. If you or a loved one are using Miralax in unsafe ways, there are things you can do to overcome your reliance on their use.
The first of these includes important lifestyle changes focused on reducing or stopping laxative use. Unless medically necessary, stop using laxatives immediately and do not use them again unless prescribed and carefully monitored by your physician. If a laxative is required to help manage symptoms related to a medical condition, talk with your provider about your struggle with laxatives and ways you might be able to manage symptoms without laxative use. Also, look for natural ways to decrease dehydration. Dehydration worsens constipation leading to a greater reliance on laxative products to produce regular bowel movements.
You can reduce dehydration by ensuring you drink at least six eight-ounce beverages each day. It is important to consume sufficient decaffeinated beverages because caffeine often acts as a diuretic; therefore, it increases dehydration and promotes constipation. Finally, a healthy diet and regular exercise are important lifestyle changes you can make to help naturally alleviate constipation. Add healthy foods that promote regular bowel function into your diet. Common examples include grains, vegetables, and fruits. Of course, increasing your intake of fiber-rich foods should be accompanied by an increase in water. If you are sedentary, start by incorporating thirty minutes of low-impact exercise into your daily routine. Of course, It is essential to discuss the frequency, type, and intensity of exercise with your primary care provider.
In some cases, lifestyle changes may not be enough to help you naturally overcome an addiction to Miralax. In these situations, comprehensive addiction treatment at Meadowglade is the best answer to helping you put your dependence on Miralax in the past and move forward without using laxative products in unsafe and unhealthy ways. When Miralax abuse is part of an eating disorder, it is vital to seek treatment from an experienced team of medical and mental health professionals. Medical care, mental health care, and nutritional support and guidance will all be crucial parts of your recovery plan. Depending on the nature and severity of your struggle with Miralax, you may need to seek medical assistance before beginning the therapeutic portion of your treatment.
In some cases, it is necessary to seek medical intervention to ensure you are adequately hydrated, and the mineral and electrolyte levels in your body are stable. Using laxatives for weight loss is often part of a larger mental health struggle associated with disordered eating. After you are medically healthy, you can begin a treatment program that addresses the psychological component of laxative dependence. It is common for someone who struggles with an addiction or dependency to struggle with urges and triggers to return to using after completing treatment. As part of your comprehensive treatment program at Meadowglade, you will work with your therapy provider and nutritional support team to develop safer, healthier coping skills to use when you struggle with physical or psychological triggers that could lead to relapse. As you progress through treatment and begin to utilize healthy eating patterns, dieticians at Meadowglade can help you create healthy eating plans that prevent constipation and eliminate the perceived need to use laxatives to maintain or lose weight.
If you struggle with laxative abuse or turn to Miralax to lose weight, the potential physical and psychological effects of these behaviors can be dangerous; even fatal. For many, seeking comprehensive therapy at a treatment center like Meadowglade offers the best chances for success in overcoming the psychological challenges that lead to Miralax misuse.
As part of a treatment program that addresses the root causes of your laxative dependency, your treatment provider can help you learn healthier ways to manage your mental health symptoms and coping strategies. Disordered eating is one of the leading “causes” of dietary (and bowel movement) change; it is essential to seek mental health treatment to help you recover from both challenges simultaneously. Left untreated, the symptoms of disordered eating and Miralax abuse can lead to significant and potentially life-threatening physical and psychological outcomes. It is crucial to seek treatment at a facility where your treatment team will create an individualized treatment plan that addresses the physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms that arise from laxative abuse and any underlying mental or physical health concerns. If you are concerned about Miralax abuse or misuse, contact us at Meadowglade today to learn more about how our programs can help you.