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 bulimia.
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 depression.
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 patterns.
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 Disorders:
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 Products.
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 Zinc - 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 mood.
Super Prescription #4 5-HTP - 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 medications.
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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Symptoms of Anorexia
- Unexplained and unnecessary weight loss
- Fear of being fat
- Obsession with preparing and serving food
- Obsessive dining rituals
- Mood swings
- Menstrual irregularities or delayed onset of menstruation
- Hair loss
- Cold or tingling extremities
- Irregular heartbeat
- 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
- Digestive problems
- Weight fluctuation
- Menstrual irregularities
- Erratic heartbeat
- Weight-obsessed culture
- Family problems
- Chemical imbalance
- 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 meals.
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 improves self-esteem.
- It is imperative that a specialist in eating disorders manage the case of a person with an eating disorder.