National Eating Disorders Association

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Laxative abuse recovery

I have struggled with eating disorders for over 20 years now, but my current hurdle is overcoming many years of severe laxative abuse. I made some progress a couple years while in an inpatient treatment program, but have relapsed since then. As is often the case with laxatives, my dependency on them has gotten steadily worse in the past couple of years. I'm currently waiting for an appointment with a GI doctor, after a recent CT scan revealed severe inflammation of my large intestine and gall bladder. The symptom that actually prompted the CT scan and a whole bunch of other tests / scans is noticeable edema in both of my legs. This began about nine months ago and has gotten progressively worse in frequency and severity (it now extends from the knees down). I've had a multitude of blood tests, including those to check electrolyte balance, mineral deficiencies, etc., but those have all shown normal, healthy levels. Just wanted to get feedback from others in various stages of their recovery who may have experienced this same edema / swelling in their lower legs related to laxative abuse. Did it subside when you stopped taking laxatives? How long did it take? I know that I need to stop taking stimulant laxatives immediately, but have many of the same fears that have been mentioned in other posts. If anyone has any suggestions or feedback about how to make the quitting / recovery process as smooth as possible, I'd love your feedback.


I used to be dependent on

I used to be dependent on laxatives as well. What stopped me was that I got dehydrated from using them and got a bowel blockage that landed me in the ER. I went off them cold turkey and my system didn't love it, but my doctor gave me a product to use for a while that was basically a stool softener. It helped, but it didn't force me to go. I used that for a while until my system got used to moving without laxative help. I know that I did have the edema initially but as I started to drink more water and continued to not take them, it got better. *hugs* They are such a bear to get rid of, but you will thank yourself later.

Hi Spectra

Thank you for your post. Your post has been edited to conform to the community guidelines, which can be found here:

Thank you and please continue posting.

Me too

I’m currently recovering from almost a year of moderate abuse. I’ve been trying to quit since April but it’s now been almost two weeks since I’ve used laxatives and am finally starting to have regular bowel movements again! I am so glad I’m not cycling between feeling thin and extremely bloated anymore because that was just no way to live. I’m have about X lb of water retention in my thighs which really bothers me cause I’m very petite which makes it pretty noticeable but knowing it’s temporary makes me feel much better. I feel like I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and I don’t plan on going back!

how long did it take for water weight to go away

hi - how long did it take for your water renetion to go away? i have gained a lot on legs , thighs area and feel like i cannot loose it for over a year now?

thank you

Hi Britt303!

I'm so sorry to hear about your struggle! I suggest talking to your doctor about the questions you have - they will be a great source of information and can probably answer specific questions just for you. Also, if you ever need to talk to someone or locate resources in your area, consider calling the NEDA helpline at 1-800-931-2237, M-Th 9-9EST and F 9-5 EST.

Keep us updated and stay strong! <3


I understand what you are going through, I abused laxatives many years ago and started about a year ago again...I have never told anyone, I am having some health issues now due to the abuse, not gonna lie, haven't stopped yet but cut back.

Hi needhelp

Hello and welcome to the forums needhelp.
I can't say that I have any experience with laxitives, but NEDA has a ton of resources that you might find helpful.
The first I'll mention is the helpline. NEDA has trained volunteers who can speak to you over the phone. They're available Mon-Thurs from 9:00am-9:00pm and Fri 9:00am-5pm. That number is 1-800-931-2237. Volunteers can point you in the direction of local resources, online resources, or just lend an ear to anyone who wants to talk.
Here's a complete list of NEDA's communicative resources:
Here's a few more:

I hope some of this helps.
Keep us updated and consider starting your own thread for more responses.



Hi! Sorry to hear you're struggling with laxatives again. I've struggled on and off with laxatives. My most recent struggle was really bad and I had to go to an inpatient ED facility to get me off them, manage the symptoms, and keep me stable. I learned the hard way how hard laxatives can be on your body. I hope you are able to get some help soon:)

Laxative recovery

Hi I've abused laxatives since 2001 in part as a way to deal with issues I have surrounding “control.” i havent taken any for 2wks and although my bowel is a little lazy my water retention in my legs has gone no more night and day leg and hand cramps theres been no weight gain just a bit of bloating it really is the best feeling to be rid of the need for laxatives I hope you to can get off them to they are evil things good luck in your recovery let me know if you need any more help with your queries :)

Edited Your Post

Hi, Lou19! Your post had to be edited because it included details about laxative abuse. Please take a moment to take a look at our Community Guidelines here: Thank you in advance for helping to keep the NEDA forums safe and supportive, and please continue posting. :)


I realize this was posted a while ago but I’m wondering what to expect. I am 19 days free of laxatives and I am having trouble having a vowel movement on my own.

Dear Natalie88

If you are having health concerns including digestive issues we recommend you seek medical attention. If you need assistance finding/getting set up with a professional please do not hesitate to call our confidential NEDA Hotline at 800.931.2237 M-TH 11am-9pm and F 11am-5pm. We have trained staff who can assist you with finding additional resources. Take care! 

very discouraging

Our situations not all the same but the complications are so upsetting. My gastro dr. say's "CC, you have a sluggish colon"??? So? The medical community has cures for all sorts of things but nothing for this VERY common condition. We shouldn't all be struggling with this. I always managed this with the above, but since my L4/5 & L3/4/ laminectomy took away that terrible lumbar nerve pain unfortunately interrupted the normal messages that go from the brain to those muscles and nerves. It's a motility problem, no medications work.There is a whole new approach but still in clinical trials while we all wait and suffer.

my bike riding helped

surprise! surprise! sooo grateful.

Physical Activity is a Great Thing

Everything within Moderation....Well some things are best Never to attempt. I am happy to hear someone hear has a few good words on "exercising during recovery" instead of just freezing everything except the Thought of, "Recovery = Loose no more body fluid, therefore don't even go there w/ Exercise." Hope you are still doing well, and Good Luck.....


Taking the first step of recovering. I am quitting cold turkey. Please wish me luck.


You should start slow and do this under a medical doctor's care. It might really put your body through shock by going cold turkey. I would highly advise against it.

Laxative Abuse

I also have struggles with various eating disorders over the past 15 years and have been taking laxatives for close to 10 years. I got pregnant about 2 years ago and thought it would help cure my dependency. I did go off of them cold turkey, and I gained water weight and had lots of swelling (but I was pregnant so I used it as my cover). I gave birth and stayed off of them for the first 3 months untill I got frustrated with loosing the baby weight, and "just one time" turned into a year of depending on them.. I know I need to stop them and I want to stop them. I keep telling myself, "I'm going to have a good food day today and this will be my end" but I just set myself up for failure. I only take them daily at night before bed but I want to be able to go to sleep without having anxiety about not taking them. Any advice on how to get my mindset right to take that step?

Self Love

Hi Rlynn90,
I have also struggled with similar issues to you and I always found excuses for why I felt unwell but realized it was the laxatives that were causing all my health issues.

It can be so tough to quit the habit of control (I find that's a huge factor in the addiction). But, it can be done and often happens naturally when you shift your focus onto health and self love instead of the problem and trying to be 'perfect'.

For me, I have actually gone through periods of time I literally forget to take them due to my self worth, happiness and stress control is all in balance. Here are some tips that really do help if done regularly!

- 5 min timer, close eyes and count breaths (1 in, 2 out) up to 10 and repeat.
- Smiling for no reason and thinking about what joy you have in your life.
- Saying 'I love you' to yourself and your body, not for how it looks but for how it is still functioning after all the hate you've given it

Body Care
- Pamper! ( home facials, face masks, baths, body scrubs, hair masks etc.)
- Daily walks in fresh air
- Yoga/Stretching (to get in tune with body and breath)
- Drink lots of water! (up to a gallon)
- Healthy, high fibre, nourishing foods you enjoy

My biggest tip is to be kind to yourself, and when you feel you NEED to take a laxative, hold yourself (hold your hand, hug yourself, hands on your heart- whatever feels right) and tell yourself:
'its ok, you're ok. I love you' as if you were speaking to your child or a loved one. Taking deep breaths as you do.

You deserve love, you deserve happiness, you deserve health.

I promise you, self love and self care is your golden ticket.

I Was There too @ 1 Time during the Worst of my College Days ED

I was using more and more Lax as my primary purge tool for self destruction. Then my college schedule changed on me, new qtr.

I had signed up for a few PE classes, as required for breadth units towards my general BS Degree.

I felt so refreshed in the pool that I realized I had to reduce my Lax to almost 0, if i was gonna continue my PE swim class.

After i graduated I moved in with a friend for grad studies library use, as well as for the convenience of Not commuting just to see 1 another.

I kept up my exercise while in grad school. We both exercised together every weekend. Then a few nights per week.

Exercise and attending grad school saved me. No more Lax abuse. But my XBF broke up so that was my newest recovery since the undergrad years.

Good luck, drink tons of water, and try exercising, it works....

I loved lap swimming so much that I began taking a class every qtr while completing my BS degree.

Stopping today

I’ve also had on and off laxative addiction for almost 10 years and am stopping now. Did everyone go back to regular bowel movements? I’m day 1 with nothing so far. Eating tons of veggies and drinking tons of water. Any tips?

beginning my recovery

I have been battling eating disorders for about four decades. My methods of self-destruction have changed over the years and I've been fighting the good fight. I have made positive changes for most of my ED behaviors but I'm still battle with laxative abuse. I'm ready to face this challenge. I'm aware that I cannot stop cold turkey. I know I should expect to feel bloated and uncomfortable. I'm very frightened of what's to come. My plan is to take less and less laxatives over time and hope my system can re-learn how to digest. I could really use some words of wisdom.

Chronic Laxative abuse recovery

I have taken laxatives everyday for the past 15 years. I am now in an eating disorder unit and really don’t know what is the best way to get off laxatives? They control my life, mess with my electrolytes but if I don’t take them, I am super scared and worried of my stomach bloating and me feeling really constipated forever, whilst still having to eat regularly everyday on a weight gain meal plan.
What should I do? Go cold turkey or reduce them?
How long will I be constipated for and will my bowels ever recover to work naturally again without the need for laxatives? Sometimes the laxatives don’t even work and that’s why I’ve ended up taking more and more over the years. I know I’ll get awful oedema. It’s the constipation and bloating I’m so paranoid and fearful of putting up with.
Pelase can you give me some advice how long it will take if I stop the laxatives for my Bowles to start working again, and will they start working again? I’m 32 years old and have a very slow metabolism and very poor digestion. Any advice that has helped work for other people coming off laxitives and how to go about it would be much appreciated.


Hi Goldengirl, thank you for posting on the forums. We edited your comment slightly to remove a specific medication name, which is not allowed on the forums – you can review our community guidelines hereWe cannot give medical advice on the forums, but we encourage you to speak with a healthcare provider about your questions. If you need assistance finding additional resources, please contact the NEDA Helpline at 800.931.2237 M-Th 11am-9pm ET and F 11am-5pm ET. Additionally, you can chat with us online M-Th 9am-9pm ET and F 9am-5pm ET. Your recovery matters, and we hope you stay safe and take care!

Hi Goldengirl

First, I want to point out that everyone is different and I can only share my own experience. I too have abused laxatives for a very long time - even longer than you and my fear of the consequences of doing so is astronomical. I didn't think cold turkey would be a great idea because I was so afraid of being extremely constipated and bloated so I have been reducing the number of laxatives I take over the last 4 weeks. I am now taking one-third what I was and feeling very positive about stopping entirely. I want to be free of this behavior forever! Only you know what is best for you. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Don't think you need to work through this alone. There are many of us fighting the same battle. I wish you the best possible outcome!

Where to start

Hi everyone…
I have to say I’m a bit relieved and also a bit terrified to have found this board.
I’ve been abusing laxatives daily for 20 years … ugh..
Abot 10 years ago I went for a colonoscopy and I was mortified when the doctor basically told me the muscle tone in my bowel was near non-existent. I had unknowingly been taking laxatives (Chinese herbs, thought it was for energy and weight loss but turns out they were basically laxatives). He told me to stop and take a different medication. That’s all he told me. I tried for a few days and it didn’t turn out well, so I went back on laxatives realising that one day I’d have to address it. But I didn’t know how, so I just put it off.
A week or so ago they just kind of stopped working. Naturally, I kind of freaked out.

I’ve been reading crazily since then and am trying to put together any of the nest strategies or support for what I can only assume is a serious case of a non-working colon. Seeing a nutritionist this week who things she can help and have a referral for a gastro in case I want that option.

Has anyone tried any supportive therapy which has helped? Any of the following
- vagus nerve stimulation
- stomach electric pulses or something
- Biofeedback

Any other leads on things to look into?

I’m really probably still in a state of panic about it all. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to fix it.. but right now I just don’t even know if it’s fixable?

Would so appreciate if anyone else has been in this looong term dependency situation and what helped, if anything, and how long in the journey you are.

I guess I’m looking for hope, for leads, and for some sense of what to expect in such a state of loss of control

Hope everyone is doing wrll


Hi wittyusername, thank you so much for posting on the forums. We’re glad you’re here. We edited your post to remove a specific medication name – you can view our community guidelines here. Although giving medical/nutritional advice is not permitted on the forums, we highly encourage you to speak with your medical providers about what’s going on. You can also reach out to our confidential NEDA Helpline for help finding support options and resources at 800.931.2237 M-Th 11am-9pm ET and F 11am-5pm ET, or you can chat with us online M-Th 9am-9pm ET and F 9am-5pm ET. Please don’t hesitate to reach out - you matter, and you are not alone.

My experience

Hi all!
I came here after reading these comments for a good 6 months... I was so determined to stop abusing laxatives, but i never really had the courage, because of the fear of the side effects. I had and ED for 6 years now. In 2017 i started using laxatives to speed up my metabolism, and until 2 weeks ago, i used them every single day.

Although i did not use pills, "only" a "natural" type (tea), i knew that i will have to stop soon for the sake of my health. So, two weeks ago after reading through variable articles and comments on how to stop, i decided i want to be free of them once and for all. Cold turkey.
Some tips that helped ME in the first week:

-drinking lots and lots of water throughout the week
-walking (I did not want to exercise excessively)
-eating foods that are easy to digest (but also foods that you enjoy! I did too, and I am here, aren't I?)
-I let my body do the rest. It may be a long journey, but so worth it!

I know, that this journey is different for everyone... For al of you out there suffering from laxative abuse, there is hope! The first 2-3 days were hard, i had constipation, i was bloated, but now, after 2 weeks, i feel like my body is learning again how to digest food on its own.
I feel like for the first time in 6 years, that there is a way out of this horrible hamster wheel.
This is only my story, my experience, but i hope that it helps someone reading it.

Hi! So this might night be

Hi! So this might night be for me as i do not have an eating disorder but about 6 weeks ago i started taking a laxative natural tea not thinking too much into it. I was moving cross countries and it was one of the teas i had with me i had tried because i had a few weeks of constipation while i had covid and i was feeling not my regular flow while travelling so i decided to take it and ended up really loving the taste and the empty feeling i had in the mornings. I didn’t take it every day but i would say every other day. Well ever since i stopped taking it my bowels have slowed down, I’m going just not as much as i should be. Could this have slowed down things in a matter of weeks? What natural tea were you taking?



I am not an expert so i dont know for a fact, but the laxative tea might have been the reason why your bowels slowed down, i can say that it was the same for me for a while. I was drinking malva leaf tea, but i think it was really strong (sometimes i had really bad cramps in the morning or even during the night). I think the safest option is to stop drinking these kind of things, because your bowels might get dependent on them. They give you a nice, light feeling, but it is only the water weight!

Hope this might help! If u have any other questions feel free to ask!:)