Laxatives should always be used only for a short time as they can have serious side effects in the long run. Most laxatives are usually not suitable to be taken for more than one to two weeks. Because if laxatives are used long-term, there is a risk that the intestinal irritation causes colonic polyps. Once these intestinal polyps have reached a certain size, they can degenerate and colon cancer can develop.
Flatulence and abdominal cramping as a side effect
Ingestion of laxatives can generally lead to bloating and slight abdominal cramps. Diarrhea should not occur. If this is the case, presumably excessive doses of laxative were taken or the agent was 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 contact your doctor or pharmacist.
When taking laxatives over a long period of time, a habituation effect can quickly occur. A defecation without laxative is then difficult or impossible. Once the habituation effect has occurred, ever larger doses are needed to be able to achieve a laxative effect. If the funds are discontinued, the intestine works for a longer period of time only limited.
Potassium deficiency as a dangerous side effect
By using laxatives, water and minerals are often excreted. This can cause the intestinal activity to decrease even further. In the long run, taking laxatives can end up in a vicious cycle that can lead to dependence in the worst case scenario.
Especially the loss of too much potassium can lead to disorders of various organs. These include the kidneys and the heart, but also the muscles. It can lead to muscle weakness, arrhythmia, bladder paralysis and liver disorders.
The intestine itself can also be altered by the use of laxatives: For example, the intestinal wall may dilute over time and the intestinal muscles may be weakened by the potassium deficiency. If the muscles weakened, the intestine can no longer squeeze the contents in the direction of the exit and it comes again to blockages - which are, however, caused by the laxative itself.
Especially severe side effects may occur with the use of laxatives with bisacodyl or phenolphthalein, as well as with anthraquinone-containing plant extracts such as aloe or senna leaves. There is a suspicion that the use of laxatives increases the long-term risk of certain cancers, such as urinary tract tumors.
Interactions with laxatives
Taking laxatives may interfere with various medications such as the birth control pill. Some drugs may be limited in their effectiveness, others may be strengthened. For more information, take a look at the package leaflet that comes with your laxative, or contact a doctor or pharmacist.
Laxative during pregnancy
Between 10 and 30 percent of all pregnant women have constipation during pregnancy. The farther the pregnancy has progressed, the more often constipation occurs. This is due to the fact that during pregnancy, the body increasingly produces hormones that have a negative effect on the activity of the intestine. In addition, the increasing enlargement of the uterus, changes in eating habits and less exercise during pregnancy can also promote the development of constipation.
In general, laxatives should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation. If blockages occur, you should first try to fix them in a natural way. In addition, swelling agents such as flaxseed, wheat bran or psyllium can help.
Not suitable during pregnancy and lactation are anthraquinone-containing laxatives. They can trigger contractions of the uterus and pass into the mother's milk after birth. This can also cause side effects in the newborn. Before taking a laxative, pregnant women and nursing mothers should always consult with their doctor.