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Diet supplements and laxatives: Doing more harm than good?

Using diet pills and laxatives is among many unhealthy methods of weight management which have been shown to increase the risk of individuals developing eating disorders.  Additonally, use of diet pills has other health effects including high blood pressure, liver and kidney damage, increased heart rate, rectal bleeding, as well as sleeping disorders. Despite these effects, and the regular discouragement to use them by health care providers, over the counter diet pills and laxatives are still popular among young adults and youths, especially women.

Now a lot of these pills and supplies are thriving because of faulty or non-existent systems of regulation. Today we have a lot of ‘wellness experts’ selling weight loss supplements without really conducting the necessary assessment or giving the proper prescription. The result is that these product have become a lot more accessible to the extent of being abused.

Abuse includes taking supplements without a proper prescription and or when you don’t need to, and without the supervision of a certified wellness practitioner. This also applies if you are normal weight or underweight, yet you take a diet supplement that is not recommended for you, or if you combine them with laxatives or diuretics, use multiple weight loss stimulants or combine pills with other unhealthy strategies such as smoking and diet adjusting to accommodate alcohol such as skipping meals or food restriction, choosing to take only shots or alcoholic drinks believed to be less in calories, or exercising and self-inducing vomiting in order to offset calories prior to a planned drinking event.

Many factors affect weight control, including having certain diseases, using certain meds, genes, your environment, as well as your mental wellbeing. As such, diet supplements are not one fits all.  Just because someone used a certain supplement and lost weight does not necessarily mean it will work for you, and that they needed supplements does not mean you need them too.

So seek help from a qualified practitioner who will be able to guide you on what is safe and practical for you.


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Christine Nderitu

As a licensed Nutritionist and Public Health Practitioner, Christine, helps people lead healthy lifestyles through education and behaviour change practices that are simple and practical. Her area of expertise lies not just in nutrition management but in health education and promotion in HIV/AIDS, Adolescent Health, Maternal and Child Health as well as Non-Communicable Diseases, which she has engaged in for a decade. She is also a columnist in a leading local Daily. Christine has a keen interest in Non-Communicable Diseases prevention and control. She feels that the world needs more stories that celebrate and normalize desired (good) behaviour, and humanity. “We have many preventable and often manmade public health issues today.”