National Eating Disorders Association

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The effects of coming off of laxatives cold turkey

I have currently been laxative free for 17 days after abusing them for nearly a year.

Over these past 17 days, I have developed severe edema in my abdomen, thighs, calves, ankles and feet to the point I am in pain, can barely walk by the end of the day and am obviously incredibly self conscious.

I've done research and I know it's normal, that with as dehydrated as I was, this isn't anything "out of the norm." I did have lab work done and everything is working properly. I'm even having BMs on my own, surprisingly.

But my question is how long will this last?? It makes maintaining a healthy eating routine difficult because obviously with the bloating I want to resort to restricting and laxatives again just for a quick fix. But I'm so sick of my ED (I was diagnosed with Anorexia Purge Sub-type last October).

Help please!

I'm so sorry that you

I'm so sorry that you struggled for so long with laxatives but I'm glad you found the help you needed and are laxative free! They are extremely dangerous when used improperly and can cause some awful health consequences including death. Everyone is different, and yes the bloating is completely normal after stopping the laxatives but if you are having concerns, that really is a question for a physician who knows your case or is sensitive to and understands eating disorders. It's great that your lab work shows that everything is working fine because continued laxative abuse can cause serious damage to organs: It's possible that because your body was accustomed to the abuse for so long, it might take even longer for it to correct itself. But please speak to your physician about this, you have come so far in the recovery process and you are so strong for doing so.
Here is some information on recovery and relapse that might help,

Stay strong!
Briana, NEDA Volunteer


Hi all
I wanted to share my story quickly to give you all some hope. I began using laxatives about 7 years ago. In the end I had a constant need to go to the bathroom, terrible bloating and a feeling of fullness that I could not get rid of, and the pills stopped working as though there was a blockage. My toilet routine was becoming a nightmare. This is when I started to do research and realised that I had damaged my bowel so much that it could end up in prolapse, colostomy, etc. WEL!!! I tapered down to a few over a week and then went cold turkey. Researched as much as i could what to eat to help my bowels work again naturally, and nothing worked. I discovered that the combination of foods I took that first day was too complicated for my tummy to digest and was completely constpated and in agony. oh did i mention the hemorroids??? that is what you get from the urgent pushing after using laxatives. ugly stuff... . Ok so after day two of this and had some results. Today I am at day 4 and everything is working pretty well normally!!! I am sooooo happy. still doing my excercises as this is an added motivation and seeing muscle results as well as the health benefits of being off laxatives. my hair is soft, my skin too tho still have a pale grey palor. Let your tummy get used to digesting food again properly instead of the rush hour we put it thru with laxatives. it will happen. Years of abuse and it is finally normal. Oh and yes i am taking supplements as this helps muscle function. i do not intend to take all of these pills forever, just until things start to settle down. I hope this gives you hope guys. it is a really hard decision to make but once you do you will be soooo proud of yourselves! be happy and take this as a challenge. I am really happy today because it worked!!!! and it will work for you too. the past 4 years i have used many tablets per day, every day. so a strong addiction and i have heard of stronger, but we can all do it. we have to get off these evil things - anyway, they stop working in the end so it is pointless.

Continued Success? Very Scared

Hello...I found your blog and realize it was a while ago, but I'm hoping you still are doing well and will respond. I have been abusing laxatives on and off for years. I went cold turkey 10 years ago during my pregnancy but started up again after my daughter was born and am trying to get off of them now so I can conceive again. I was taking many after lunch and then many again before bed. I have already weened myself to half. I take none during the day and only take the ones at the end of the day. I've already started feeling a little worse...a bit of water gain (my rings are tight)....I want to wean more, but I"m afraid. Did you continue to have success?


Hi dannic,
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any tips?!

I saw your post and was wondering how it is going? I started with laxatives 7 years ago and I have cut myself down to half over the past 6 months and am trying to go down another half, then stop altogether for good! I am nervous about the damage I probably already caused using laxatives daily for this long but I am struggling to get back to normal- my body is so dependent and I am terrified I won't be able to wean myself off without serious consequence at this point. have you had any success or have ideas to help?! I am without insurance for the next month so I am putting off a doctors visit until then but I am getting more and more nervous as I research the possible effects of long term laxative abuse.


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Pls need some help..

Pls need some help..
I am facing the same laxatives addiction from past 11/2 years used very strong laxatives, trying to come out of it. 8months before I had haemerroidatomy operation,I had more haemerroids. from 8 months I am on very soft diet like baby diet.If I change my diet very little then also it's giving me very hard stools and continuously starts coming hard though I change the diet. Presently I am using mild laxatives. Started getting new haemerroids. Unable to understand what to do. Need right doctor. I stay in Chicago. Pls suggest me the right doctor.

Hi Ramya,

It's great that you're trying to reduce/stop using laxatives--that takes a lot of courage and strength, so I congratulate you for seeking help! I think it's a great idea to see a doctor. On the forums we can't recommend specific doctors/hospitals/etc., and I'm personally not familiar with options in Chicago. I definitely recommend you contact the NEDA Helpline. You can chat with them online or call them: The Helpline might know of resources available to you in Chicago. If not, I would just make an appointment with a general practitioner and see if they can refer you to someone who can help. Keep moving forward and seeking help! You're moving in the right direction. Good luck!

Hi could you please explain

Hi could you please explain all what you did to make your bowls start working on there own again


I abuse Laxatives you're story is the same as mine I need you're help please

I need help

I have been using stimulant laxatives every day for two years. I now take large quantities of them. I am miserable and want to stop so badly but I'm terrified of the recovery. I am scared and just need something... Anything positive or just some hope to get give me that last push to stop. I've been Also keeping this a secret from my family they think I'm literally dying because I'm always sick and vomiting or diarrhea. I am just so overwhelmed and afraid. Please help

Thanks for sharing

Thanks for sharing your struggles and triumphs with your history of laxative use. Your story instills hope in those grappling with issues around laxative use, and more broadly for all those suffering with extreme situations. I find your words very encouraging and inspirational, and really appreciate the time and effort you put into communicating them via this forum. Good luck maintaining your recovery! You sound very determined, goal oriented, and persevering- never let that die!

do i need help?

i started taking laxatives over a year ago because i was extremely constipated and sometimes went 4-5 days without a BM. Now i have to take them at least once a day or my stomach gets distended and I am extremely uncomfortable. Even after taking them every day for a year, I still sometimes go 3 days without "going." Is this normal? i drink lots of water every day. I am not taking them to get thin, although I will admit i have a terrible fear of being fat... but rather seem to need them to function normally.
I wish I didn't have to take them... I am Celiac and Diabetic so struggle with food options as it is. I am a certified full time chef, and so understand nutrition etc. any thoughts anyone?

Laxatives are not for regular

Laxatives are not for regular use

Hi Chefr,
Every person's body is different. I'm certainly not a medical professional, but based on every piece of literature I've read on the subject, there is no bm guideline. On the other hand, there is a great deal of literature supporting that laxatives are not meant for regular use. If you suspect you may need help, and you also say that you need to take them at least once per day to feel comfortable, that sounds like a problem. Please talk to a medical professional about your concerns having a laxative dependency. You can ask about your bm concerns and put together a plan to kick the laxative routine to benefit your health. As mentioned above, you can also check out NEDA's page on the topic of laxative abuse
Thanks for sharing and I hope you schedule an appointment with a professional soon!

Laxatives can be for regular use IF PERSCRIBED

Brooke125 laxatives can be used daily for long periods of time if your doctor prescribes them, I have a bowel condition and I was on laxatives from the age of 3, prescribed of course I was on all different types of laxatives until they found one that suited me and I was on them until I chose to stop taking them in high school, I still need them now and again but resist the urge to abuse them, when I was bad with anorexia I did admittedly abuse them but not all the time. I use them when I need them, sometimes my body doesn't want to work how it should and I use them when needed

Laxatives are the worst

Laxative dependency is not a way to live life. It's disruptive to your body and your life. A dear friend had a laxative dependency that began in college. She now uses a permanent colostomy to eliminate waste. If you are struggling, seek professional help. Talk about your concerns, make a plan to stop abusing yourself, and let your body function naturally.

It's a struggle- i too am

It's a struggle- i too am dependent on laxatives. I want so bad to recover from this, and I have a hard time dealing with the discomfort when I don't use them. I guess it's yet another exercise in dealing with uncomfortable feelings....recovery seems to be full of those. I'm not trying to be negative, just kind of funny :) I think it's great you are committed to ending your dependency. As far as the dehydration goes- my dr recommended some ideas to help even out the electrolyte/mineral imbalances that come with frequent use of the bathroom. I noticed a difference and actually think I will get more. Good luck!

Hi ab0928

Hi ab0928

A small part of your comment was removed to comply with the guidelines of the forum which you can find here We encourage you to carry on sharing your support!


Hi ab0928

Hi ab0928

Thank you for sharing your words on the process of recovery. As you said it is a difficult process, but we are here to remind you that it is possible! Have you ever considered calling the NEDA helpline for suggestions with recovery support? Or read the stories of hope which can serve as huge motivations in recovery? You are doing amazing! Keep going and keep us posted!
Stories of hope:
NEDA helpline: 1-800-931-2237


Good luck in coming down from your Lax high

Hope the edema passes you by soon and your body goes back to ground 0. Good luck in recovery. Drink water and exercise too. That helps circ the water back out of da system ya know. I'll be sure to never do those horrid pills or cocktails in my recovery too.

Laxative question

I have used laxatives for a year or 2. Not all the time. I'll go weeks or months without, I guess I binge use for a few days or a week here & there. I just threw
What I have away, haven't had in a few days. Is it ok to go a few days without using bathroom? At what point is it a concern?

Health Professionals

Hey Mandy. That's an important question. It is probably best answered by a health professional like a doctor. Unfortunately NEDA doesn't have any on staff on the forums and I don' think that I've ever seen any post here. Our bodies have a natural rhythm to them. We can affect that by what we eat and how we treat them. Its generally said that more fiber helps ease bowl movements.

And laxatives severely expedite the process. Taking them had its immediate effect on your body. Not taking them may have an affect to. You may have intervened in your body's natural rhythm. Its not unheard of for someone to go a few days without a bowl movement though. But like I said, I am no health expert and everybody's body is different. If you're looking for real answers, try your primary car physician.

Ouch---that hurts

It isnt fun, i have been there.


Try having your potassium levels checked. Laxatives deplete potassium which is very important in bowel constipation, bloating, gas, etc.
There are warnings to be careful with potassium supplements as too much may be as dangerous as too little. You might also consider magnesium oxide. These are both minerals that your body needs and not harsh laxatives so they will not cause dependency.

Hi all,

I just want to chime in and say that I agree with what Adage said--I think these questions are best left to a medical professional. Justaword's suggestions are useful but it's also important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another. Professional help is always useful in situations like this since every case is different and laxative abuse can cause serious health problems. Good luck, Mandy_pjs! Please keep us updated if you get some answers or helpful advice.

Day 3

Hi community!

I have been addicted to Laxative for 16 years and 3 days ago I took the plunge and decided to go off them. For many reasons but mostly because I want to get pregnant late next year and I want to have this disease under control by then. I realize it is a process and will take time but I'm scared, I can't go to the bathroom without them and I'm not used to this feeling. I'm keeping a super clean diet and drinking lots of water. I actually think my colon has reduced in size and is finding it difficult to pass the regular BM when it isn't liquid form. I took something last night to try and help move things along, I'm really trying not to go back to the Laxative.
Any words of advice or wisdom would be helpful thanks and how long did this period last for you guys? Do you now have normal BM by yourself everyday?
Thankyou so much!

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MrsCBird, your post has been edited to comply with our community guidelines: Users are not allowed to mention specific foods, as this may be triggering for other users. As you continue using the forums for support, you might also consider reviewing our page on sharing your story responsibly: Thanks for helping us keep this a safe space for everyone!

Need Help

I have been taking laxitives every other day for about 20 years and have no idea how to stop and correct whatever is wrong. I don't know if I should start taking probiotics and stop the laxitives cold turkey or taper off slowly. I've tried just about every RX for constipation but gave up a few years ago. I have researched a lot of things about it and most days to eat more fiber and start probiotics like Align. Should I just stop with the pills all together and replace them with the fiber and supplement or this with the laxitives?? I want to just be a normal bath room going gal. I do take them to keep my tummy flat-ish but I'm sick of it. I'm also a type 1 diabetic. I'm pretty thin but still have serious body image issues and I think somehow, the laxitives make me feel smaller but the side effects are becoming intolerable. Please help!!!!

The best advice

Is to talk to a doctor about this since nobody is a doctor or professional, which means we cannot give you advice onthis. Everybody is different. I wish you luck.

Other advice

Obviously you should talk with your doctor. but clearly people come to blogs as they are looking for personal experiences and ..sometimes...doctors do just push clients in and out these days....everyone is in charge of their own health and a good doctor will tell you that. Now, to davischristy22, "my experience" --and i am Not a doctor --- I started laxatives daily for about 2 years as a result of a car accident. In the end they started to not work and i didnt want to increase dosage i stopped cold turkey....needless to say my body did not remember how to have a bowel movement....anyway.....I went to a major hospital....Also, yes i did take fiber as well.....i personally took an "insoluble" fiber. It is now 1year and 1 week later and I have come Very far. I wont sugar coat it the first 6months were an incredible struggle...hemmoroids, fissures, and constipation, but today I am much better. I still take supplements daily and have to watch my diet. I do not take fiber supplements anymore but instead eat fibrous foods which is healthier anyway as i am getting the vitamins and minerals from them. Good luck to you can take a long time and you will wonder if you will ever get better, but you will!!


What supplements do you take?


Are not allowed to mention specific medications.


What supplements do you take?

How I Became Regular After LAX Abuse

I am about a month and a half into home recovery. I went cold turkey after abusing laxatives for for 5+ years, b/p and restriction. I weaned off the lax. I was still b/p, but also stopped that.

I changed the foods I was eating amazingly enough I had no problem going #2. I have had no constipation. I was amazed I could still go on my own!

I am in early recovery and am doing this at home. I am experiencing a lot of water retention and bloating....I mean...a lot. It’s gone down a bit the longer I am on the wagon, but it’s still upsetting and very noticeable.

I want to know any personal experiences that anyone has had about when their water retention started to go down! Please? It is helpful to hear others experience. Thank you!!

Hi!! Reading your post gave

Hi!! Reading your post gave me more hope! I’m really glad your recovery is going well. I’m recovering as well. I’m not experiencing any water retention, but I definitely bloat. I’ve noticed that I tend to bloat when I don’t eat for long periods of time. I have to snack frequently to prevent the bloating, but it still happens here and there. Another thing I do to prevent bloating is drink tea. I found it on online, read the reviews, and a lot of people say it’s helped with their bloating as well.

I hope this helps!

Hi all!

I’ve been lax free for five days. I was hooked on them for 4 years. So far I’ve been eating a healthy diet full of fruits and veggies, and have bowel movements in the morning. I’ve noticed that my stool can be abnormally thin(sometimes) Did anyone experience thin stools?

Mcc123 answer to your question

Yes! It’s been about two month since I quit using laxatives! Was on them for almost 7 years and taking high amounts daily, but then weened down then quit. I am still experiencing narrow stools as well, but I eat a ton of fiber rich foods and i am grateful to even be able to have normal bowl movements!!

Water retention is a very normal thing, btw. We’ve been purging our body of fluids for so long that it now wants to hold onto waterver liquids we give it. Drinking water will help relieve this over time!

Hi Landizzity, just a

Hi Landizzity, just a reminder that we do not allow mention of specific numbers/amounts on the forum, as this information may be triggering for other users. Thank you, and please continue posting! 


I have used laxatives on and off for many many years. After reading up on this as I have had to increase the number of pills taken, I decided to stop recently. I don’t have water retention but severe abdominal bloating. Did anyone experience SEVERE bloating?

Hi,Please be advised your

Hi,Please be advised your post was edited to remove numbers that could be triggering to  other forum users.  NEDA community guidelines can be reviewed here: Thanks and please keep posting!  

We cannot provide medical

We cannot provide medical advice as we are not trained healthcare professionals. I am sorry that you are in discomfort and hope that things improve. Have you contacted your doctor to discuss the issues? NEDA can also help - they have trained volunteers that can assist you in finding doctors, resources, etc.

NEDA Contact:
Helpline 1-800-931-2237
Chat at
Text "NEDA" to 741741


I’ve used laxatives on and off for many years. I stopped during pregnancies. Now many years after abusing laxatives daily, I’ve stopped cold turkey. I am experiencing severe abdominal distension and the inability to use the bathroom. I don’t have generalized edema but I’m very distended. How long does it take for the bowels to return to normal? Please help!

 Hi, Your comment was edited

 Hi, Your comment was edited to remove numbers.  NEDA community guidelines can be reviewed here:  Thanks and please keep posting!  


You need to consult a medical professional. We cannot help you here on the forum. I hope you get better soon.

I quit laxatives


I’ve been abusing laxatives for about six years. Even though I’ve been able to control my bulimia habits, the laxative habit stuck around because I became dependent on them to have a bowel movement.
It’s been in the back of my head to quit them because of the pain they caused me and the continual fatigue and obvious mineral imbalances/dehydration I was experiencing. I’m also pretty sure it was causing or at least making my anemia worse.
I may be premature in reporting my success but I quit laxatives cold turkey a week ago.
With going cold turkey came other changes to help me induce a bowel movement.

I’m happy to report that I’ve had a daily bowel movement for the past three days!!! I cannot explain the relief I feel from being able to pass stool on my own.
Quitting laxatives cold turkey has been the best decision I’ve made this year/life. It’s hard work and dedication but I encourage you to do it! I no longer have interrupted days with painful bowel movements.

I hope this helps! I abused for 6 years and I’m seeing good results. Have hope! But if after you adopt these suggestions and you don’t see improvements, I’d seriously suggest talking to a doctor.

Best wishes to all!

I am wanting to quit but don

I am wanting to quit but don’t know where to start! What type of supplements do you take and how do you have a normal bowel movement?

Not allowed

Sorry. We're not allowed to give that type of advice. Best to ask a doctor or other professional. Best wishes.

Dear hddmm, we would like to

Dear hddmm, we would like to let you know that your post has been edited to remove specific advice about how to quit laxative use. Any kind of advice is not allowed on the forums. You can see our community guidelines here: Thank you for your understanding and please keep posting! 

I think

Coming cold turkey off of any medication is dangerous, especially without being under the direction of a medical professional. I would not suggest it for anybody.

It's Hard

It's difficult and anxiety inducing. I have been dependent on laxatives for a decade. I started off at 13. It's gotten to a point that I can't go without them. I always knew I had a problem. I knew the health effects and it scared me but the "need" was always much stronger. I thought I'll leave them eventually. It wasn't until my sister's friend told me what laxative abuse did to her health. She told me she wished she knew everything she did now. She had caused irreversible damage to her body. I've only been on my second day without them. It is not far long but I suggest anyone to stop as soon as possible. I read an educative pamphlet from Cornell health that it is best to stop now if the user is laxative dependent.

If you have insurance and can get access to proper help that would be ideal. I don't so I have to make due with what I have. I got rid of all my laxatives and I know I'll struggle with the regret of doing that.

I've set up a list of goals that I want to accomplish. I take it one day at a time.

I can't say for certain that I won't relapse. The bloating is the worst and I wish more than anything to hide. But at the end of the day it's for the best. I've hurt myself via my laxative dependency.