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Diuretics and Laxative Weight Loss

Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
First version: 22 Jul 2008. Latest version: 16 Aug 2008.


Describe the use of laxatives and diuretics to reduce weight. This practice is not recommended.


Describe diuretics and laxative weight loss. Do you recommend this?


To control their weight, eating disorder patients rely on a range of techniques and strategies called elimination behaviour; among them there is also the self-prescription of laxatives and diuretics.

Roughly one third of bulimic people use laxatives, and roughly 10% take diuretics as a way of ridding their body of unwanted calories from eating (or binges).

Laxatives are drugs which ruin intestinal activity and faecal elimination, while diuretics stimulate renal activities and increase urine emission.

The use of these drugs should be limited to specific therapeutic uses and most should only be sold by prescription. Nevertheless, a lot of eating disorder patients obtain them and sometimes use them excessively. It is not unusual to find a bulimic girl who says she has used from five to ten laxative tablets every day for years.

The excuses most commonly advanced by these patients to justify this abuse are usually constipation (for laxatives) or water retention (for diuretics).

Both symptoms are really consequences of the patient's inadequate diet that is followed by patients and represent physiological defensive reactions of the body which signal serious metabolism dysfunction.

But when you use drugs to force the body to react in a way beyond its possibilities of compensation, you enter a more serious pathological circuit.

So laxatives that originally were taken to overcome constipation, in the long-term, cause damage to the inside of the intestinal wall which then causes obstinate and irreversible constipation; while diuretics, that originally were taken to overcome water retention cause, in the long-term, renal damage and then alteration in the balance of fluids and salt balance that regulate water retention.

It is not enough to repeat that using these drugs for weight control is not only stupid, but it is also self-destructive, like an attempt to whip a tired horse to make him walk. In the end, not only does he still not walk, but, what is worse, we may no longer have a horse.

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