Image of laxative capsules

Using laxatives for constipation is no laughing matter. For one, it’s incredibly uncomfortable. On top of that, it can lead to bloating, which is a serious blow to your self-confidence. It just feels…awful. And then, of course, straining to go to the bathroom for extended periods of time can also eventually cause more issues, such as hemorrhoids.

If you’re dealing with this pesky problem, don’t fret… you’re not alone: in fact, a whopping 15% to 20% (that’s over 42 million people) in the U.S. have battled constipation [1] — myself included! That’s right, Beauties, I’ve dealt with this problem in the past, especially during times that I was trying to eat healthily, but really wasn’t, and when I was stressed (which was a lot of the time for a while!). And I’m here to tell you not to shrug it off. The quality of your digestive system can affect everything from your skin to your mood. So it’s critical to find a solution that works.

So, what should you do about it? For many people, their first instinct is to head to the local pharmacy and pick up some laxatives. But are laxatives safe? Are laxatives healthy? And are laxatives habit-forming? I’ll put it this way: hardly any “quick fix” comes without some dangers. But fortunately, there are some natural alternatives. In this guide, I’m delving deep into everything you need to know about laxatives. As well as offering some tips for natural constipation relief.

Are laxatives dangerous?

In a word, yes: laxatives can have a slew of harmful side effects.

Dr. Stanley Rosenberg, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, told Harvard Health: “Laxatives may seem like the quickest and simplest solution, but they’re not a good idea. If people go right to stimulant laxatives, there is a risk that they’ll become physically dependent on them.” [2]

That’s, right, you can become physically addicted to using laxatives, particularly if you start using them regularly. Essentially, these products can make your GI tract become lazy over time. Especially in the case of stimulant laxatives, which force your bowel to contract (and can thus cause your bowel to lose its own ability to contract). Laxatives are not only habit-forming, they can actually destroy parts of your colon.

Laxatives can actually destroy parts of your colon.

In one study, the mucosal lining was negatively impacted to the point where the natural folds inside of the intestine had turned completely smooth [3]. Once the colon loses its shape, form, and elasticity, it’s no longer as effective in terms of waste removal. As a result, you begin to rely on laxatives. And once you start relying on them, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop. The process of repairing the colon can come with a whole lot of discomfort, which is why many people have a hard time ditching the laxatives.

That’s not all, Beauties. The dark side of laxatives extends far beyond dependency. The way laxatives work is that they stimulate your bowel movements. But you’re not just losing waste in the process. You’re also losing electrolytes like potassium and sodium, as well as lots of water.

In fact, research has revealed that many people who overuse laxatives experience dehydration. They also may experience hypokalemia (a severe depletion of potassium) [4]. Chronic overuse of laxatives has also been linked to impaired kidney function, muscle weakness, and edema [5]. Electrolyte imbalance is a serious issue. It can lead to any number of symptoms from weakness and confusion to an abnormal heartbeat and seizures.

By the way, if you’re taking any medications — especially antibiotics or any medicine for the heart or bones — note that laxatives can interfere with them. Other side effects of laxative overuse include severe cramps, weakness, dizziness, rectal bleeding, and bloody stools [6].

Covering up the problem of constipation isn’t ever the way to go. Especially because there could be a serious medical condition behind it. The idea is to get to the root issue causing it, and then devise some natural remedies that can address those causes.

What are some natural constipation remedies?

Do not worry! Take it from someone who knows well and has been there… There are some much safer ways to address constipation that don’t come with the aforementioned ugly side effects. Here are some of the most effective strategies:

1. Incorporate the Right Kind of Probiotics

People who suffer from chronic constipation very often have one thing in common: an imbalance of bacteria in their gut. (i.e.: Too much of the “bad” bacteria, and not enough of the “good” kind). Probiotics are live microorganisms that can help to restore balance in the gut, thereby alleviating (and preventing) constipation [7, 8].

For one, probiotics can facilitate the production of short-chain fatty acids and lactic acid, which research has shown can make it easier to pass a stool by improving your gut movements [9]. In fact, a recent study revealed that probiotics not only increase the frequency of bowel movements but also improve stool consistency [10].

If you’re interested in integrating probiotics into your diet, you’ll need to be picky about which kind you use. I always advise opting for soil-based probiotics. Why? SBOs are more resistant to digestive acids and have a natural protective shell. And since they are hardier than other probiotics, they are more likely to make it to the lower digestive tract (where they can have the most positive effects). In fact, studies have shown that the probiotics that aren’t derived from the soil (such as those found in yogurt) actually only have minimal effects on gut bacteria [11].

I designed my  SBO Probiotics to be a powerful mix of strains so that they can be as effective as possible in a variety of ways. The formula is also meant to most closely mimic the probiotics found in nature.

2. Get Friendly with Fiber

As you may know, fiber has a major impact on your digestive system — it acts like a pipe cleaner, collecting waste particles along its journey and sweeping them out of your system via your stools. Not only that, but fiber adds some bulk to the stool. This makes it easier for your gastrointestinal muscles to move food along.

The daily recommended value for fiber is 25 grams per day (for an adult on a 2,000-calorie diet). This will vary a bit based on gender and constitution. It’s important to know that there are two different types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is found in many legumes, nuts, and fruits. It absorbs water, forming a gel-like paste that improves stool consistency. Research has proven that this type of fiber is more effective in reducing constipation [12, 13, 14].

Soluble fiber is found in a number of foods, from oats and dried beans to apples, citrus fruits, potatoes, and peas. Try incorporating more of these foods into your diet.

3. Get Moving

Did you know that moving your body can help you move your bowels? While it may be tempting to lie down after a meal, try going for a 20-30 minute walk instead. Exercise can boost blood flow as well as muscle activity within your intestines. It kickstarts the digestive process to prevent constipation and bloating. Need proof? A recent study on people with IBS found that that exercise significantly reduced symptoms, including constipation [15].

I love to work out in the morning, as this fires up my GI tract for the day. Any sort of jumping exercises is especially effective in stimulating the bowels. Think plyometric squats, lunges or rebounding on a trampoline. But if that’s not your thing, jogging, Yoga, and dancing are all ideal options as well.

4. Supplement Smart

Sometimes, you may feel as though you’re staying hydrated, consuming plenty of fiber, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy plant-based diet, but for some reason, your bathroom habits are still less than ideal. I’m all for seeking out some extra help — and luckily, there are solutions that don’t involve laxatives.

That’s a major reason why I created Detoxy+ — to more efficiently and effectively eliminate waste from your system, thereby reducing bloating, constipation, and gassiness. Basically, this supplement releases small amounts of oxygen into your colon. It then breaks up acidic waste and softens your stool so that it can be passed without discomfort, pain or strain. Did I mention the product is not habit forming and doesn’t contain irritating herbs (like senna)? That means you can use Detoxy + on an ongoing basis to boost your cleansing efforts and become more regular. And you won’t have to worry about becoming dependent on it.

Constipation is nothing short of unpleasant. I’m here to tell you that you deserve better than that kind of discomfort. Moreover, you shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences that come with laxative use. Try some of the aforementioned methods and you’ll get back to your natural state. You will be in harmony with natural rhythms!