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What Are the Most Common Side Effects of Senna?

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  • Written By: Jillian O Keeffe
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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Senna is a natural laxative that it increases the speed of fecal movement through the intestines. Side effects of senna, when taken in the recommended short-term fashion, typically only involve digestive issues like abdominal cramping. When taken in excess, senna can also cause such problems as mineral deficiency or alterations in intestinal tissue.

The intestines are the areas of the body which remove water and other nutrients from the food that has been ingested. Senna is a plant that can be used to speed up the movement of feces through the intestines, if this is desired. How it does this is to irritate the interior of the intestines, and prevent them from absorbing water properly. The excess water softens the feces and allows them to move more easily through the bowel, thus creating the laxative effect.

When used for a week or less, in the optimum manner, senna does not usually cause any serious medical problems. The mild side effect of senna that are most common are restricted to the gastrointestinal tract. Most often, a person experiences muscle cramps in the abdomen, as the feces move through the intestines. A nauseous feeling, belching or the production of diarrhea are also common occurrences. Only very rarely do serious side effects like allergic reactions or uncontrollable muscle spasms occur with short-term use.

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Risk of side effects of senna rises with long-term use of the laxative medicine. Due to its intrinsic effects, a person who takes senna too often or in too high doses may be putting himself or herself at risk of nutrient or water deficiency, as the bowel cannot absorb a normal amount of food substances from the intestinal contents before they are expelled from the body. Potassium and sodium deficiencies are the most common problems, along with dehydration. These deficiencies can cause serious medical problems like changes in blood chemistry, malnutrition and even heart trouble.

Side effects of senna can be more likely if the consumer takes other medications at the same time. Examples include drugs for people with heart disease and other forms of laxatives. People with an undiagnosed pain in the stomach area, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and very young children are not generally suitable patients for senna treatment.

Conditions that can cause constipation may be medical, or they may arise from a low-fiber intake. If a person suffers from regular constipation, and the cause has not been identified, then one of the unwanted side effects of senna may be to mask the symptoms of the underlying problem. When a person uses senna instead of going to see a doctor, then he or she may be at risk of developing more serious disease.

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