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Can chronic use of stimulant laxatives damage the colon?

William B. Salt II., MD
Gastroenterology
The belief that stimulant laxatives can damage the colon is probably untrue. This is the conclusion drawn by Dr. Arnold Wald, a gastroenterologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who is an expert on constipation. Chronic use of laxatives is not harmful when they are used appropriately. Remember that most people with constipation can be adequately relieved with adequate dietary fiber intake. Osmotic laxatives can be used on a daily basis. If necessary for symptom relief, stimulant laxatives should be used no more often than two to three times weekly.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome & the MindBodySpirit Connection: 7 Steps for Living a Healthy Life with a Functional Bowel Disorder, Crohn's Disease, or Colitis (Mind-Body-Spirit Connection Series.)

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome & the MindBodySpirit Connection: 7 Steps for Living a Healthy Life with a Functional Bowel Disorder, Crohn's Disease, or Colitis (Mind-Body-Spirit Connection Series.)

Fast Facts on IBS: One in five people suffers from the frustrating symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). There is no simple answer--no pill, potion, or quick fix--that will cure IBS. But help...
Continuous daily use of stimulant laxatives can cause health problems such as low potassium, salt overload and a protein-losing disease, so they should be taken only as directed by your physician. However, chronic use of stimulant laxatives has not been proved to cause structural or functional damage to the colon or to cause colon cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.