Laxatives are a class of drugs that are used for the treatment of constipation and clearing the colon for a rectal examination and other such uses that require elimination of feces from the large intestine or the colon. People sometimes mistakenly take this medicine as a method of weight loss. This is probably because of a poor understanding of the way the digestive system works as a laxative will only remove the contents of the large intestine and not the small intestine. The most common use of laxatives is during a case of constipation. Constipation is a condition in which the feces have dried up to such an extent that the tissues of the rectum find it difficult to expel it causing a condition called fecal impaction. A laxative will then be administered to both hydrate the stool by preventing the uptake of water by the colon and to stimulate the rectal muscles to push out the impacted feces.
The human digestive system starts at the mouth with the first bit of enzymes working on starch and fat through the saliva. This acts fast and the first phase is complete by the time the bulk of food reaches the stomach where it is broken down by hydrochloric acid and pepsin. The food sits in the stomach for a while before the pyloric sphincter opens to allow food to pass further down the digestive tract, past the pancreas to eventually reach the small intestine. This is a long tube and as the peristaltic action pushes the digesting matter forward, it is acted on by bacteria to breakdown complex sugars and absorbed by the intestinal absorptive cells called the enterocytes. Whatever cannot be digested is passed from the small intestine, past the appendix, into the large intestine or colon. Here the water content of feces is reabsorbed into the blood until it is finally pushed forward into the rectum for storage until finally excreted.
Effects of Laxatives Abuse
Most bulimics will take laxatives in an effort to expel food from the intestines but will only end up defecating any undigested material in the gut. Laxative abuse of this type is extremely serious and will result in colonic atrophy at some point, which will require even more laxatives. It can also lead to more serious disorders like intestinal paralysis, irritable bowel syndrome, pancreatitis, and kidney failure. The most visible sign is that of an electrolyte imbalance and fainting from dehydration. Anemia can also occur if the intestinal tissue is damaged and stool is covered in blood.