What are the dangers of taking Alli weight loss pills?
People may take Alli weight loss pills to try to lose weight, especially since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the over-the-counter medication in 2007.2 However, there are many dangers and risks—physical and psychological—associated with taking Alli and Xenical as “weight loss” medications.
Orlistat is currently the only weight-loss drug available without a prescription, making it dangerously accessible for people with disordered eating behaviors or a clinical eating disorder. It can be particularly risky for people with an active eating disorder to take orlistat since eating disorders and orlistat can cause malabsorption, leading to undernutrition and nutritional deficiencies.3
Orlistat side effects and health risks
Taking Alli weight loss pills can cause many adverse and unwanted effects, including:1,3
- Loose stools
- Increased number of bowel movements
- Problems controlling bowel movements
- Pain in the rectum
- Abdominal pain
- Oily spotting on clothes or underwear
- Irregular menstruation
- Anal fissures
If you are prescribed orlistat and are experiencing side effects that won’t go away, notify your doctor—they may adjust your dose or switch your medication.
Alli weight loss pills can cause severe and potentially dangerous side effects, such as:1,3
- Issues with swallowing or breathing
- Extreme or ongoing stomach pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Dark-colored urine
- Yellow eyes or skin
Aside from expected side effects, there are also health risks involved with using Xenical for losing weight, including:4
- Severe liver injury
- Acute kidney injury
- Increased risk of osteoporosis
- An impaired ability to absorb vital vitamins and nutrients, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies
Can you overdose on orlistat?
Theoretically, it’s possible to overdose on orlistat, but there isn’t much research available about specific doses or dangers. Most orlistat overdose cases that have been reported have been asymptomatic or have included side effects that are similar to those associated with taking the recommended dose.6
If you or someone you know takes more than the recommended dose of Alli or Xenical, call 911 or seek medical attention right away. Some of the side effects associated with using the recommended dose can include severe liver damage, so it’s essential to get immediate care.4
Unpacking the problem of taking orlistat for “weight loss”
Taking a weight loss or diet pill like orlistat could indicate that someone is struggling with disordered eating or an active eating disorder, especially when other symptoms are present like body dissatisfaction, restricted eating, a fear of gaining weight, purging, excessive exercise, and more.7
People with eating disorders or who struggle with disordered eating sometimes use weight loss medications like Alli or Xenical. Some studies have confirmed this, with reports of participants with eating disorders using Alli weight loss pills.2
During one study, nearly 58% of individuals who used Alli or Xenical for weight loss met the criteria for an eating disorder, including bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and anorexia nervosa.2 Additionally, case reports have revealed that people with bulimia may misuse orlistat as a purging mechanism.4
Diet culture and weight stigma
Diet culture, anti-fat bias, and weight stigma are to blame for the reason medications like orlistat are so popular. False ideals around what size, shape, or weight your body should be can cause body dissatisfaction, distorted body image, low self-esteem, self-criticism, and eating disorders. Diet culture is also responsible for our societal beliefs surrounding certain foods being “bad” and others being “good,” as well as how we punish ourselves for eating “bad” foods that we enjoy. As such, using medication to lose weight and attain the “ideal body” has been normalized in our diet-obsessed society.
However, there is a way to break the cycle. Learning intuitive eating, improving body image, and healing your relationship with movement and food are all possible.
Remote treatment is available
Within Health’s remote treatment program offers individualized treatment planning through compassionate, nonjudgmental, trauma-informed, and person-centered care that prioritizes your needs and goals.
Call (866) 293-0041 for a free consultation and learn more about remote eating disorder treatment options.