How to counteract too much laxative? (+5 ways)

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “How to counteract too much laxative?”. We will further elaborate on the symptoms of taking too many laxatives and some common laxative products. 

How to counteract too much laxative?

If you suspect to have taken too much laxative or are experiencing symptoms of too much laxative, and desperately want to counteract it, do not worry, here in this article, we have described a number of ways that will help you counteract too much laxative and relieve your symptoms.

  • Stop taking any more laxatives
  • Drink more water 
  • Add exercise to your routine 
  • Eat regularly
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Keep a check on your bowel movements

What are laxatives?

A laxative is a medicine that prevents or provides relief from constipation when it is hard to discharge the bowels. Various laxatives are taken by mouth, whereas some are implanted inside the rectum

There are many kinds of laxatives including bulk-forming, lubricant, hyperosmotic, saline, and stimulant-type laxative. 

Laxatives generally act in one of the following ways: (i) enhancing retention of fluid by hydrophilic or osmotic mechanisms; (ii) decreasing net absorption of fluid by effects on small and large bowel fluid and electrolyte transport; or (iii) altering motility by either inhibiting segmenting (non propulsive) contractions or stimulating propulsive contractions. All of the agents, with the exception of docusate calcium, reduce the transit time through the small bowel (1).

Laxative overdose is the involuntary or voluntary intake of laxatives in doses greater than recommended amounts. Most laxative overuses in children are incidental. But, some individuals usually take too many laxatives to attempt to lose weight. Also, people diagnosed with bulimia nervosa are specially identified to have an overdose of laxatives. Studies have reported that laxative abuse among patients with bulimia nervosa range from 18% to 75% (1).

Eating disorder patients constitute the largest group of individuals who abuse laxatives and are certainly the best characterized. These patients may initially take laxatives in response to constipation. This is particularly true of patients with anorexia nervosa who, because of low food intake and dehydration, frequently have problems with constipation. However, most eating disorder patients take laxatives to induce diarrhea in order to feel thinner, and in an attempt to get rid of unwanted calories and lose weight (1).

The overuse of laxatives is diagnosed depending on the clinical history, set of signs and symptoms, and further tests (that may include, in some instances, radiological investigations and laboratory examinations)

Some specific laxative products include Docusate, Malt soup extract, Lactulose, Cascara sagrada, Magnesium citrate, Docusate and phenolphthalein, Glycerin suppositories, Bisacodyl, Methylcellulose, Phenolphthalein, Psyllium, Senna, Mineral oil, Milk of magnesia and Castor oil (1).

Common symptoms of too many laxatives

The most frequent complication of laxative abuse is obviously diarrhea. Cramping and pain may present with the diarrhea due to stool volume and a direct effect of the laxative on intestinal motility. Medical complications can be divided into disturbances involving electrolytes, metabolic issues, bowel, kidney and miscellaneous effects (1).

The symptoms of laxative overuse depend on many factors, including the kind of laxatives used, the quantity used, and the duration they have been taken. Some of the most common symptoms of laxative overuse are as follows:


Continuous use of laxatives leads to constipation. This may promote people to increase the dose of laxative, which in turn only intensifies the problem. In some cases, diarrhea may alternate with periods of constipation, which causes the patient to enter a vicious cycle alternating between the two (1).


Laxatives induce loss of fluid by the intestines. Dehydration, in turn, reduces body function.

Electrolyte imbalances

Many individuals who overuse laxatives often suffer from electrolyte imbalances. Electrolytes including potassium, sodium, and chloride are important for many body processes. Due to chronic diarrhea, electrolytes are carried out of the body by the feces, leading to an electrolyte imbalance in the body.

Loss of potassium leads to development of hypokalemia, the patient may present with generalized muscle weakness and lassitude. Additionally, the presentation may include skeletal muscle paralysis, or rhabdomyolysis with renal impairment, and nerve palsies. More severe hyperkalemia can result in cardiac arrhythmias with an increased risk of sudden death (1).


Those who overuse laxatives, particularly the stimulant-type laxatives, can get blood in their stools. Chronic blood loss linked to laxative overuse can result in anemia.

Impaired bowel function

Those who overuse stimulant-type laxatives can exhibit persistent impairment of bowel function. Bowel dysfunctions including colonic mucosa inflammation and ulceration, ileocaecal sphincter dilation, colonic neuropathy, steatorrhoea and protein-losing gastroenteropathy have been reported with laxative abuse (1).

Different ways to counteract too much laxative 

The treatment for the excessive use of laxatives does not have an ascertained protocol. If the patient is expressing erroneous beliefs regarding the normal number and frequency of bowel movements, education is essential. If the person is suffering from an eating disorder, an appropriate treatment plan for the particular eating disorder should be enacted (1).

Stop taking any more laxatives

The first obvious thing you can do is to stop taking any more laxatives right away unless your doctor directs you to do so. Keep in mind that stimulant-type laxatives are very damaging to the body.

Drink more water 

Fluid content is important in the determination of stool consistency and volume, with water accounting for 70–85% of total stool weight. Drink no less than six to ten cups of water every day. You can also have decaffeinated beverages, but not caffeinated ones since they act as a diuretic, increasing the loss of fluid. Limiting the fluid intake during this time increases dehydration and only increases constipation.

Add exercise to your routine 

Adding some physical activity to your daily routine can also help to improve bowel movements, though you should first investigate the intensity and type of exercise with your doctor or therapist. Too extreme or very strenuous exercise can increase constipation, due to the impacts on the metabolism and fluid balance.

A study found an inverse association between physical activity and low bowel movement frequency. In the study, physical activity only two to six times a week was associated with a 35% lower risk of constipation and daily activity with a 44% lower risk relative to less than once daily (2).

Eat regularly

It is essential that you divide the amount of food suggested to you on your diet plan over a minimum of three meals per day, and eat these meals at frequent periods.

Eat healthy foods

Eat healthy foods that encourage regular bowel movements. The healthiest dietary strategy to promote normal bowel movement is to have more whole-grain bread, cereals, cookies and wheat bran or meals with added wheat bran. Bulk, softness and hydration of feces depend on the fiber content of the diet. Fiber is the part of food that does not undergo enzymatic digestion. It reaches the colon largely unchanged. Colonic bacteria ferment fiber to varying degrees, depending on its chemistry and water solubility (1). Higher dietary fiber intake is associated with a decreased prevalence of constipation (2).

This dietary plan should be followed in combination with taking more liquids. Vegetables and fruits also play a part in normal bowel movements. 

Do not take prunes or prune juice as the ingredient in prunes that encourages bowel movements is basically an irritant laxative, and the use of prunes and prune juice for a long time can cause the same trouble as extended use of laxatives.

Keep a check on your bowel movements

Normal stool frequency on a Western diet is at least three times a week (1).

Record the frequency of your bowel movements on a sheet. If you are suffering from constipation for over 3 days, call your doctor or nutritionist.


In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “How to counteract too much laxative?”. We have further elaborated on the symptoms of taking too many laxatives and some common laxative products. 


  1. Roerig, James L., et al. Laxative abuse. Drugs, 2010, 70, 1487-1503.
  2. Dukas, Laurent, Walter C. Willett, and Edward L. Giovannucci. Association between physical activity, fiber intake, and other lifestyle variables and constipation in a study of women. Am j gastroenterol, 2003, 98, 1790-1796.