Millions of Americans suffer from an eating disorder or know someone who does. People are now using over-the-counter laxatives to help them lose weight, but the consequences can be painful and even deadly.
Laxatives affect the colon, and as a result overuse can cause diseases like colon cancer, or worrisome symptoms such as seizures, dehydration and heart arrhythmias. If that's not bad enough, there's also uncomfortable symptoms like cramping, bloating, and gas.
"People that end up getting into laxative abuse really, really have a difficult time stopping because the colon gets dependent on the laxatives," said Dr. Steve Crawford, a psychiatrist at Sheppard Pratt.
"The problem is that the laxative is working on the colon which is where all the calories have been absorbed already. It causes some additional water loss... but it does not affect real weight loss," he continued.
Eating disorders are typically associated with anxiety and depression.
Dietitian Rebecca Hart said the best road to recovery starts with treatment and a proper diet.
"We recommend having three meals a day with one-to-three snacks. We're very big on having variety, balance, and all the food groups," she said.
"There's definitely hope and people do recover," Dr. Crawford said. "It's taking the first step and reaching out and asking for help and acknowledging that you have a problem."
For more information on eating disorders and to find help visit the National Institutes of Health website.