Anorexia & Bulimia

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Anorexia Bulimia - An Eating Disorder with a Major Impact
Anorexia Bulimia are eating disorders which can have a major impact on the body. While professional mental health care is crucial for individuals suffering from these disorders, so too is medical evaluation and treatment. Self-imposed starvation and binge/purge cycles have serious physiological effects.

Anorexia Bulimia - The Medical Effects of Starvation or Binging and Purging
Anorexia and Bulimia can cause serious health complications. Bulimia often causes injury to the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and stomach) due to cycles of repeated vomiting. Bile and acid from the stomach irritates and inflames the membrane that lines the esophagus, causing a condition known as esophagitis, which is sometimes severe enough to cause scarring and narrowing. This passageway can become so narrow that it is difficult for food to pass through. The physical stress of vomiting can cause tears in the lining of the esophagus. These tears may bleed massively or cause the esophagus to rupture. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate surgery.

Bulimia can also cause injury to the stomach due to binge eating. Frequent vomiting commonly causes gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining. Also, eating a large meal very rapidly, combined with slower emptying of food from the stomach may, on very rare occasions, cause the stomach to rupture, causing death from peritonitis. Lung complications occur when self-induced vomiting leads to aspiration of food particles, gastric acid, and bacteria from the stomach into the lungs, producing pneumonia.

Kidney and heart complications, when they occur, are often severe. Fasting, vomiting, and over-use of laxatives may result in loss of fluid and crucial electrolytes from the body. Chronic dehydration and low potassium levels can lead to kidney stones and even kidney failure. Loss of body acids, as a result of frequent vomiting, leads to high alkali levels in the blood and body tissues. This may cause weakness, constipation and fatigue. Severe alkalosis and potassium deficiency can lead to an uneven heart rate or sudden death. Injury to the intestines, particularly the colon, commonly results from laxative abuse. Damage to the intestinal lining may lead to ulcers and produce bloody stools.

Those who struggle with Anorexia struggle to maintain an average body weight. They restrict their food intake, either by eating small amounts of food or by exercising too much. Women or girls who struggle with this disorder often stop having menstrual periods. People (both males and females) also struggle with hair loss, frequent sickness, mood swings, and malnutrition. Ultimately those who struggle with severe anorexia may risk death.

Anorexia and Bulimia can cause injury to the skin in various ways. Most over-the-counter laxatives contain phenolphthalein, which may cause sores in the skin and hyperpigmentation (brown or gray spots). Excessive and forceful vomiting may result in hemorrhages in the blood vessels in the eye. Injury to the teeth is quite common. Chronic vomiting increases the acidity of the mouth and results in erosion of the teeth's enamel and dentin.

Anorexia Bulimia - Laxatives, Diet Pills & Other Drugs
Anorexia Bulimia victims often use drugs, over-the-counter as well as prescription, in their efforts to remain thin. Laxatives, for example, may seem to move food through the body more rapidly and may relieve abdominal distention after binging, but they do not prevent the calories in the food from being absorbed. The temporary weight loss that is seen after using laxatives is mostly due to loss of water in the bowel movement, and will be naturally regained. Misuse of laxatives is harmful in several ways: they upset the body's electrolyte balance; they lead to dehydration; they damage the digestive tract lining; and they let the bowels get lazy, so that one may experience constipation when laxatives are not used.

Diuretics, or water pills, increase urine excretion and can cause a sudden weight loss. A person who fails to distinguish between loss of body fat and loss of water may see this as a desirable effect and start using diuretics to lose weight. But because the only loss induced is water, the result is dehydration. In addition to causing dehydration, diuretics are also dangerous because they can increase the loss of calcium, potassium, magnesium and zinc from the body. They can also cause rebound retention of salt and water, making the body more sensitive to diet changes. Ipecac syrup, which is taken to induce vomiting, has been linked to deaths of several patients with eating disorders. Emetine, the active ingredient, can build up in tissue and cause muscle or heart weakness. Ipecac is toxic, whether taken as a single large dose or as small doses that can build up over time.

Anorexia Bulimia victims somtimes take diet pills to help with weight loss. These reduce appetite, but only temporarily. Typically the appetite returns to normal after a week or two, the lost weight is regained, and the user then has the problem of trying to get off the drug without gaining more weight. Warning: these drugs are of little use in achieving and maintaining weight loss and can become dangerously addicting.

Anorexia Bulimia - Escape the Cycle of Despair
Anorexia Bulimia may have seemed an easy solution at first -- if you binged, you purged; if your body repulsed you, you exercised. But those "solutions" drove you deeper into despair, self-loathing, and addiction. Culture and its airbrushed perfection sets an unattainable standard for most, whispering, "If you're unhappy, do something about it." And though the desire for change isn't inherently wrong, focusing entirely on body image can lead to obsession. Eating disorders like Anorexia Bulimia offer a false sense of control, propelling you into a cycle of disease that robs your self-esteem, disrupts your daily life and affects your health, sometimes to the point of death. Only by escaping the trap and discovering the beauty inside can you find true contentment.

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Material adapted from "Dying to be Thin" by Marian Eberly and Bonnie Harken. Copyright 2000 Focus on the Family. Used by permission.


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