How to Stop Taking Laxatives in Bulimia Nervosa Recovery

As disordered eating nutrition counsellors, we see many clients who are struggling with laxative use. Lead nutrition counsellor at Ease Nutrition Therapy, Shannon, gives her 7 top tips to stop using laxatives. The information in this blog cannot replace nutritional, medical, or psychological treatment and support.

For more information on laxatives see this blog here. This blog outlines everything we think you need to know about laxatives, including the myths and dangers.

Our 7 tips to stop taking laxatives:

1. Focus on building your gut health

This can be done by eating enough food as a whole and specifically fibre. Studies suggest that laxative abuse can reduce the beneficial bacteria in your gut, which then needs to be built back up.

2. Ensure you’re adequately hydrated

Especially if you get constipated, as you reduce your laxative consumption. Be sure not to drink too much water but manage your intake, especially to suit your lifestyle. You don’t want to be constantly in and out of the bathroom if that’s not conducive to your life.

3. Think about when you’re using laxatives

If you are using laxatives after binging / overeating you may naturally wean off them as you stop binging. But noticing when you’re using them will help see what triggers you to use them and see if they’re linked with binging.

4. If you are used to consuming a large quantity of laxatives per week do not completely go off laxatives

This might be due to a dependency on them, slowly reduce their use and work with a medical professional to ensure this is done safely if need be.

Abruptly stopping may also cause withdrawal symptoms such as cramps, nausea, vomiting and muscle aches. Laxative withdrawal symptoms can last for between 1 and 3 weeks but will most likely stop after this but you don’t want to cause them too abruptly.

5. Speak to your Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian about food, fibre and fluid intake

Bulking agents might minimise the significant discomfort that comes after weaning off serious laxative abuse.

Ensuring you consume foods that will help with your electrolytes, fibre levels and fullness will help ease the transition from using laxatives to being laxative free.

6. Educate yourself from your Nutritionist or Dietitian

When discontinuing laxatives many people get anxious that they will gain weight or other negative side effects. The more you know about laxatives the more you can confidently wean yourself off them. There is a podcast by Marci Evans that covers this topic which may be easy to listen to. Knowledge is power. And can help us overcome mental hurdles that pop up.

7. Keep a note of your bowel movements

Tuning back in with our body is always useful, and seeing the effects of the laxatives on your system.

Know that laxative abuse treatment options are out there and you might need multiple resources to help you – your GP and a Nutritionist/Dietician, especially if you suffer from an eating disorder while abusing laxatives.

If you are looking for 1-1 support to stop taking laxatives, we are happy to help you. Apply for support here.