Eating Disorders (Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia)
Eating disorders are characterized by a distorted body image and an intense
fear of being fat. This abnormal mental state leads to extreme and
sometimes life-threatening behavior. A person with an eating disorder may
binge on large quantities of food and then vomit or use laxatives so that
the foot exits the body undigested, or the person may refuse to eat at all.
Although eating disorders can manifest themselves in many ways, they always
result in an unhealthful, obsessive relationship with food. The best known
and most frightening kinds of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa and
Anorexia nervosa occurs most frequently in teenage girls and college-age
women, and it's estimated that about 1 percent of all young women in this
age group suffer from the disease. It is here that eating disorders take
their most disturbing form: slow, deliberate starvation. Despite their
obviously emaciated bodies, anorexics believe that they are overweight. The
refuse food, or they eat just enough to keep their systems minimally
functioning. Some may eat occasionally, just to please their families or
friends, but they often purge themselves of the food afterward. It's not
hard to see that anorexia can lead to grave health problems. Weight loss,
weakness, and fatigue are obvious early signs, but as the disease
progresses, it can also lead to weak vital signs, irregular menstruation,
and cold or tingling extremities. If the dieting continues, the person may
go into cardiac arrest.
Bulimia is a more common disorder that affects a slightly older population,
usually women in their twenties. Bulimics also have a distorted body image,
but instead of dieting down to skin and bones, they use a cycle of bingeing
and purging to maintain a relatively normal weight. Bulimics may eat
thousands of calories at one sitting and then induce vomiting to expel the
food from the body so that they can't gain weight. They may also use
laxatives to keep the body from digesting the food. Because many bulimics
are quite successful at hiding their purging, the disease may go unnoticed
for years. In fact, bulimia is often diagnosed only when a doctor or a
loved one notices a pattern of medical conditions associated with bulimia.
The stomach acid produced by frequent vomiting often causes tooth decay or
a chronically sore throat. Self-induced vomiting produces another telltale
sign: sores on the knuckles or the fingers. Not surprisingly, bulimics also
tend to suffer from nutritional deficiencies, as well as digestive
disorders like constipation or diarrhea. In severe or long-term cases, the
complications can be fatal. The stomach or the esophagus may rupture, or a
potassium deficiency can lead to kidney failure or heart attack.
We do know that eating disorders are a recent and mostly Western
phenomenon, rare before the latter half of the twentieth century and
nonexistent in developing nations. Our culture's emphasis on dieting and
thinness is one undeniable cause of the disorder; far too many girls-and an
increasing number of boys-believe that they are unlovable and even unclean
if they can't diet down to the current rail-thin standard. Even if these
children don't intend to become anorexic or bulimic, it is highly likely
that what starts out as "normal" dieting will disrupt the body's metabolism
and chemistry and eventually lead to a serious disorder. Family dynamics
also play a role: many sufferers come from families that place great
pressure on their children to succeed. Although doctors used to believe
that anorexia and bulimia were purely psychological in nature, it's now
understood that chemical imbalances and the accompanying nutritional
deficiencies may lead to eating disorder just as easily as they may lead to
An eating disorder must always be taken seriously. Even if a person does
not meet the exact standards for an eating disorder, an obsession with food
and dieting can pave the way for more serious problems. If you suspect that
you have an eating disorder, find a counselor or a friend you can trust.
Talking about the disorder is one of the first and best steps you can take
toward healing it. See a doctor for assessment and treatment of any
secondary disorders you might have developed; if your eating disorder is
severe, you may have to be hospitalized so that your body can regain its
strength and balance. Bulimics will need to see a dentist as well. Once
you've talked to a doctor, you'll need to follow an eating plan that
replenishes the nutrients in your body and helps you reestablish healthful
patterns. If you're not already seeing a professional therapist, make an
appointment. He or she can help you relearn good habits and thinking
If you are worried that a friend or a family member has an eating disorder,
you may find that confronting the ill person results in the individual's
denial or resistance. Sometimes the only way to help a victim of an eating
disorder is to ask for professional help. Call a doctor or a psychologist
and ask for advice; if you're on a college campus, the school may have an
eating-disorder specialist you can talk to. In extreme cases, the person
may need to be hospitalized.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; level of
effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when
taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements shown to help Eating
Prescription for Natural Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and
Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
Super Prescription #1
Multivitamin – High Potency
– LifeSource Products - See All of our Multivitamin
Take as directed on the container. If you have been
diagnosed as being iron-deficient anemic, choose a formula
that contains iron. It will supply a base of vitamins and
minerals for nutritional support.
Super Prescription #2
- LifeSource Product
Take 50 to 100 mg daily, along with 3 mg of copper. Studies
have found that zinc deficiency is common in people with
anorexia or bulimia. It is also required for the senses of
taste and smell and for appetite.
Super Prescription #3
B - Complex – Vitamin B
- LifeSource Product
Take a 50 mg complex one to two times daily. Many of the B
vitamins are depleted because of stress and are required
for the formation of brain neurotransmitters that balance
Super Prescription #4
- LifeSource Product Take 100 mg two to
three times daily. It supports serotonin levels, which
reduce anxiety and depression. Do not use in combination
with pharmaceutical antidepressant or anti-anxiety
Super Prescription # 5 Gentian root (Gentiana lutea)
Take 10 drops in water or 300 mg fifteen minutes before
each meal. It improves appetite and digestion.
Super Prescription #6
St. John’s Wort
- LifeSource Products
Take 300 mg two to three times daily. This herb helps with
depression and anxiety. Do not use in combination with
pharmaceutical antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.
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for Eating Disorders
Symptoms of Anorexia
Unexplained and unnecessary weight loss
Fear of being fat
Obsession with preparing and serving food
Obsessive dining rituals
Menstrual irregularities or delayed onset of menstruation
Cold or tingling extremities
Weak vital signs
Symptoms of Bulimia
Sores or calluses on knuckles
Chronic sore or burning throat
Erosion of tooth enamel, especially on the back teeth
"Chipmunk" appearance from swollen salivary glands
Low levels of serotonin
Nutritional deficiencies (e.g., zinc)
The following suggestions will help you get back on track, but it is highly
recommended that you work with a nutritional therapist. A professional can
help you address the particular deficiencies your disorder has created and
can show you how to develop eating habits that work for you.
Instead of sitting down to a large breakfast, lunch, and dinner, eat small,
nourishing meals throughout the day. This strategy will stabilize your
blood sugar, and if you're bulimic, it will help you stop binging.
A high-fiber diet will restore regularity to your digestive system. Eat
plenty of whole grains, oats, and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are
also a good source of potassium, a mineral that bulimics must replenish.
People with eating disorders are often lacking protein. Plan to have fish
several times a week, and include servings of soy products or beans at most
Anorexia nervosa has been linked to a zinc deficiency. Pumpkin seeds are an
excellent source of this mineral. Eat a quarter to a half cup daily.
Many people with anorexia or bulimia have low levels of the
neurotransmitter serotonin. Regulate your serotonin by eating complex
carbohydrates like whole grains.
Foods to Avoid
Some foods fool your appetite or taste buds into feeling satisfied, when,
in fact, you have received very little nutrition. A goal of your dietary
therapy should be to relearn how to listen to your body's needs, so stay
away from the following "tricky" products: processed food, junk food,
sodas, and diet or "lite" foods.
Keep your blood-sugar levels steady by avoiding refined sugar. Do not eat
candy, cake, cookies, ice cream, sodas, or other sweets.
Eliminate caffeine and alcohol, substances that upset the digestive system
and sometime produce anxiety.
People with eating disorders often become obsessed with burning off
calories through physical activity. A far better option is to take a
thirty-minute walk at a moderate pace. The mild exercise will boost
your spirits, and if you can get out in the fresh air and sunshine,
you'll feel even better.
Girls who are just beginning puberty are particularly vulnerable to
losing their self-esteem; they may also fear the upcoming body changes
and natural weight gain. Both of these factors can set the stage for an
eating disorder. You can help girls make a healthy transition into
adolescence by encouraging them to develop a talent or an ability that
It is imperative that a specialist in eating disorders manage the case
of a person with an eating disorder.
Bruce Brightman – founder
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