What is bulimia and what are the side effects of this eating disorder?
Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder characterized by a person eating large amounts of food at a time (binging) and then throwing up all of the food (purging). In many cases, a person with bulimia will eat and throw up food as a type of relief from emotional problems. Weight control and major stress in life are other examples of why someone may be suffering from bulimia. In some cases, those who struggle with bulimia also struggle with anorexia. Those with anorexia however, tend to be underweight while those with bulimia are often of a normal weight, although it tends to fluctuate by a few pounds.
People with bulimia often have low self-esteem and poor body image. When bulimics throw up they use a variety of methods. These methods may include self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives and diuretics, or exercise.
Research shows that most bulimics start their habits before the age of 25. Nine out of ten people with bulimia are women. Some argue, however, that men make up a larger percentage of those with bulimia than is typically believed.
Bulimia nervosa may seem to be less damaging because it is much easier to hide than the eating disorder anorexia. While a person with anorexia nervosa will look emaciated rather quickly, it can take months of severe bulimia to until effects begin to present themselves.
It is important to seek treatment for bulimia as soon as possible because it can be extremely dangerous and even fatal. About 10% of individuals suffering from bulimia will die from starvation, heart attack, other medical effects, or suicide.
- Signs of Bulimia include:
- Out of control eating
- Pain in the stomach
- Hoarding food
- Bruised or callused hands and knuckles
- Frequent change in moods
- Sore jaw
- Constant trips to the bathroom to throw up (often right after meals)
- Use of laxatives or diuretics
- Eating large amounts of food at once (binging)
- Swollen cheeks
- Problems with blood vessels in the eyes
- Eating alone
- Frequent exercise
- Low self-esteem
Treatment for bulimia is often multi-faceted, comprising both medical and psychological treatment.
The side effects of a bulimia eating disorder can be extremely harmful to a person’s health and well-being. Often times, a person struggling with an eating disorder is less concerned with the disorder’s side effects due to the condition’s overpowering nature.
In addition to the psychological impact, bulimia’s side effects can cause irreparable physical damage. Restrictive, compulsive, and weight controlling behaviors like self-induced purging and inappropriate use of laxatives or diuretics can cause a multitude of other health complications and medical conditions.
Potential Physical Effects of a Bulimic Eating disorder include:
- Tooth enamel erosion because of repeated exposure to acidic gastric contents
- Dental cavities, sensitivity to hot or cold food
- Swelling and soreness in the salivary glands (from repeated vomiting)
- Stomach Ulcers
- Ruptures of the stomach and esophagus
- Abnormal buildup of fluid in the intestines
- Disruption in the normal bowel release function
- Electrolyte imbalance.
- Irregular heartbeat and in severe cases, heart attack
- A greater risk for suicidal behavior
- Esophageal problems
- Vocal chord damage
- Osteoporosis or decreased bone density
- Hair loss
- Digestive problems
- Decreased body temperature
- Organ damage
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Enlarged salivary glands
- Dry skin
- Menstrual dysfunction
- Hormone irregularities
- Low red blood cell levels
- Weak muscles
- Immune system damage
- Out of control feelings
- Mood changes
- Avoidance of others
- Constantly thinking about food
- Unable to eat with others
- Poor body image
Further, it is estimated that one third of people struggling with a bulimic eating disorder use laxatives, and roughly 10% take diuretics. Various effects include:
- Laxative abuse
- Chronic intestinal inflammation
- Chronic constipation
- Irregular bowel function
- Systemic toxicity
- Diuretic abuse
- Kidney damage
- Body fluid stagnation
- Blood pressure complication
Other bulimia side effects include difficulty conceiving a child as well as a larger risk of miscarriage and premature birth after conception. Bulimia side effects damage a woman’s body, which can physically inhibit her from having healthy children in the future.
For some, it may seem like there’s no escape from a bulimic eating disorder, but recovery is possible. With treatment, support from others, and smart self-help strategies, one can overcome a bulimic eating disorder and gain true self-confidence.