Part II - Effects & Finding a Dietitian
Note: There are two parts to this article. For “Part I - Getting Familiar with Eating Disorders,” click here.
I’m Limor Weinstein, founder of Bespoke Wellness Partners, and I am going to answer some of your most-asked questions about eating disorders (ED). My background, experience, and education as a licensed mental health therapist are centered on personal and family well-being. As a mother, wife, and psychotherapist, my goal has always been to provide emotional support and knowledge that may be absent due to a variety of variables. I myself am an ED survivor. I am also an Eating Disorder Specialist who works with clients to help them find their way to better health.
What health risks are related to ED?
There are many health risks related to eating disorders. Each eating disorder has its own health consequences due to the nature of the disorders. As Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by self-starvation, the body is forced to live without the essential nutrients it needs for normal functioning. Anorexia can lead to abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which increases the risk for heart failure, reduction of bone density, muscle loss and weakness, and severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure, fainting, fatigue, overall weakness, dry hair and skin (hair loss is common). It is also possible that there is a growth of a “downy layer of hair called lanugo” all over the body to keep the body warm (NEDA).
With the binge-and-purge cycle of Bulimia Nervosa, the entire digestive system becomes affected, which leads to electrolyte and chemical imbalances of the body. These electrolyte imbalances “can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death” (NEDA). This is because electrolyte imbalance is caused by “dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and chloride” from the body each time the individual purges (NEDA). Gastric rupture can occur during binging. Frequent vomiting can lead to inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus, tooth decay, and staining from stomach acids. Abuse of laxatives can lead to “chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation” (NEDA).
The consequences of Binge Eating Disorder are similar to the health risks associated with clinical obesity. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, heart disease due to elevated triglyceride levels, type II diabetes mellitus, and gallbladder disease (NEDA).
Are there any ED withdrawal symptoms? What are they?
Withdrawal from an eating disorder is similar to withdrawal from other addictions. According to a study done by Indiana University, symptoms of withdrawal typically include irritability, cravings, and general restlessness.