The Physical Effects of Anorexia & BulimiaMarch 13, 2021 • Posted in:
Your body is paying a heavy price for an eating disorder. If you are bulimic and use laxatives or vomiting to purge, your skin is probably quite dry and frequently breaks out in small rashes and pimples. If your salivary glands haven’t yet become enlarged because of your constant vomiting, they could.
If you’re bulimic or anorexic, you probably experience continual constipation and intestinal bloating because you either don’t keep down enough food to pass through your system or simply don’t eat enough to trigger elimination. You may also have swollen, puffy hands and feet brought about by an electrolyte imbalance. For anorexics, this is because of malnutrition; for bulimics, vomiting or laxative abuse.
If you compulsively overeat, your extra weight is putting a strain on nearly all your body’s systems and setting you up for future health problems. If you only eat from a small list of safe foods, you deprive your body of the proper range of vital nutrients. If you constantly defer to unhealthy food choices, you ask your body to accommodate too much fat, salt, sugar, preservatives, and chemical additives. If you yo-yo diet—indulging one day or one week or one month and then restricting yourself the next, you create systemic strain where your body is forced to accommodate either too much or too little with no balance in between. These are not easy things to say or read, but you need to know the truth.
Your eating disorder or pattern of disordered eating today will affect your body tomorrow. One such effect is the slowing down of your metabolism. You have a unique metabolic rate that has become unbalanced by your lifestyle choices. Down the road, this can result in weight problems years after your disordered eating patterns have been overcome. Your body can readjust itself in time, but the longer you continue in this destructive behavior, the more difficult it will be for your body to reestablish its proper functions.
If you are an anorexic woman, your self-starvation will lead to a complete loss of your menstrual period, if it hasn’t already. Rigorous exercise, emotional ups and downs, even bingeing and purging can also shut down your body’s reproductive systems. It knows something is wrong, even if you don’t, and it’s not about to take any chances with pregnancy. With menstrual loss comes estrogen loss, resulting in loss of calcium to your bones. Too much calcium loss can result in osteoporosis, or brittle-bone disease, later in life. Many young anorexics develop the bones of an eighty or ninety year old.
If you’re bulimic, the bitter acid from gastric juices washes over your teeth when you vomit and destroys enamel that can never be replaced. If you continue your eating habits long enough, your teeth will be irreparably damaged and will require either crowns or replacement by dentures. What teeth you retain will be more susceptible to cavities because of weakened enamel.
If you use laxatives to purge, either exclusively or in addition to vomiting, there is added damage to your digestive system and bowels. If your body hasn’t had to work at passing food through your system for a number of years, it has become lazy, and you’ll need bulk lubricants to aid in having bowel movements.
If you are anorexic and are denying your body the life-sustaining nutrients it needs, your body will begin to turn on your. It will feed on itself in order to survive. When fat is no longer available, your body will begin to digest its own muscle tissue. Since your heart is a muscle, damage to this organ can become irreparable, even fatal. Your hair will thin and fall out.
Because of the severity of an eating disorder, the damaging effects usually become evident more quickly than with an entrenched pattern of disordered eating. However, continuing in a pattern of unhealthy eating and food choices can produce long-term negative physical effects. A short list of acceptable foods does not allow the body access to the variety and quantity of nutrients and fiber needed. This leads to nutritional and digestive deficiencies. A steady stream of highly processed, highly caloric, fat and salt saturated food choices can lead to hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions.
In light of these facts, it is vitally important that you begin to work on the reasons why you’re engaging in this destructive behavior and begin to treat its physical effects. This is important no only for today, but also for your tomorrow.
If you or a loved one is struggling with anorexia, it’s important to seek professional help. Our world-class team of eating disorder professionals at The Center • A Place of HOPE has helped many people recover from eating disorders through our focus on whole person care. Fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to get more information or to speak confidentially with an eating disorder recovery specialist today.
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