Long Term Effects of BulimiaCamila Archuleta
What This Eating Disorder Can Do to Your Health Long-Term
Eating disorders are insidious and many people have a hard time putting their finger on the exact moment that they began. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by binging and purging behaviors, but self-induced vomiting can lead to long-term consequences for your health. What are the real long term effects of bulimia?
Icarus Behavioral Health offers effective treatment for those diagnosed with bulimia nervosa in the beautiful state of New Mexico. We provide both inpatient and outpatient services to meet you where you are and help to diminish the long-term effects of this eating disorder.
What are the Psychological Effects of Bulimia?
Eating disorders are often accompanied by other mental health concerns. In some cases, the nutritional deficiencies that you put your body through might have an adverse effect on your mood. This research study found that patients who had improved nutrition over the course of an eight-day experiment had statistically significant improvements in their mood.
Of course, there is also the possibility that an underlying mental health concern is contributing to your binge eating and purging behaviors. If you struggle with depression or anxiety before the development of your eating disorder, it will likely follow you and worsen as your nutrition diminishes.
Much like other eating disorders, bulimia can take a toll on your self-esteem and social well-being as well. When you put so much time and effort into your weight loss or managing the cycle of binging and purging, you have less time to dedicate to relationships. This leads to a feeling of isolation and your confidence can often take a hit.
Physical Symptoms and the Long Term Effects of Bulimia
There are some serious health consequences for those who keep up with bulimia, an eating disorder characterized by the presence of a binging and purging cycle. Whether you engage in self-induced vomiting or laxative use, you are likely to face medical complications with time.
Heart Problems Caused by Malnutrition
One of the problems for those with eating disorders is that they tend to fluctuate in weight quite a bit. While a low body weight may not be necessary for a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, there is a chance that you are below your ideal body weight due to malnutrition. The body must find a new source of energy to burn in order to function well.
Unfortunately, this often means that the body will be burning muscle — namely, your heart muscle. Not only will you have a weakened heart muscle, but you will also suffer from other medical complications that are related such as low blood pressure or heart palpitations.
If your eating disorder goes unchecked for long enough, it can lead to cardiac arrest or heart failure.
Damage to the Gastrointestinal Tract and Mouth
Frequent vomiting can do some lasting damage to your gastrointestinal tract as well. Because of your self-induced vomiting, your body becomes used to discharging food back up your esophagus. In turn, it weakens the muscle that holds food in the stomach which can lead to stomach acid rising up toward the throat. In other words, you will have constant acid reflux that makes enjoying your food more painful.
Additional complications can occur as the esophagus is damaged from stomach acid. This can lead to cancer or scarring of the esophagus.
Other Ways of Exhibiting Bulimic Behaviors
Other people who have bulimia nervosa may not be engaging in vomiting. Instead, they may turn to laxative abuse to dispel their body of the food they consumed. This, too, can lead to issues with your GI tract by damaging your intestines and the anus. Chronic constipation and hemorrhoids are often the results.
Another point to mention is that this serious eating disorder also damages the mouth. Most prominently, it causes tooth decay and damage. The stomach acid weakens tooth enamel which triggers cavities, the loss of teeth prematurely, and gum disease. If you do not enjoy time spent in the dentist’s chair, then you may want to minimize this type of behavior through eating disorder treatment.
Metabolism Slows Down
Those who struggle with bulimia nervosa are often forcing their body systems into a state of starvation. They never get to truly absorb the nutrients from their food and may even have a deficit of calories. When this happens, the body tries to store away every morsel that it can which leads to a slow metabolism.
Unfortunately, this creates a vicious cycle for people with bulimia nervosa who are concerned about their weight. Binge eating can sometimes lead to weight gain when the body has entered into survival mode which only worsens the cycle of binge and purge.
Electrolyte Imbalance and Lasting Issues
Almost half of all patients who are diagnosed with an eating disorder are likely to have an electrolyte imbalance. This can worsen some of the symptoms of starvation that the body is going through including dizziness, confusion, and swelling in the extremities. This is worse than just simple dehydration (which is also an issue for most patients with bulimia nervosa).
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention for the physical effects of your eating disorder right away. Without immediate treatment, electrolyte imbalances can trigger heart damage and have fatal complications.
Hormonal Imbalances and Disruptions to Menstrual Cycle
Many people with periods find that disruption to their monthly cycle is one of the first physical effects of their eating disorder. In fact, amenorrhea is one of the criteria for being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. However, this can also surface in patients who are seeking treatment for bulimia.
Hormonal imbalances are quite common in those with bulimia or bulimic tendencies. In this research study, it was discovered that those who fell into this category not only missed their periods often but also had a hormonal imbalance and may even struggle with infertility. It alters the sex hormones in drastic ways, which has long-term effects on your sexual and reproductive health.
Pregnant women may experience more complications with their pregnancy or may suffer through miscarriages as a result of hormone imbalances. Those who carry to term often give birth prematurely to babies with low birth weights and possible birth defects.
It might be worth discussing hormone therapy with your medical provider if you are struggling with some of these issues.
Hair, Skin, and Nail Health Suffer
While it may not be as serious as some of the other symptoms, it is important to note that your body will not be at its prime. Many patients with bulimia struggle with chronic dry skin and hair loss. You may also see the opposite effect: lanugo, a thin layer of fine hair that grows all over the body in order to regulate body temperature.
Often, patients will also have a telltale callus or abrasions on the outside of the hand from their self-induced vomiting and purging behaviors. Your symptoms of bulimia might be more obvious to the world if they change your skin color to orange or if you start to develop sores around the corners of the mouth.
Is It Time to Seek Treatment for Your Bulimia Nervosa?
Without a doubt, the long-term effects of bulimia are quite serious and you should monitor yourself for some of these physical signs. Even if you do not find that you have an irregular heartbeat, electrolyte imbalances, or difficulties with your reproductive health, it is best to seek treatment as early as possible.
Icarus Behavioral Health is here to provide you with the level of support you need to conquer your eating disorder. We offer a holistic approach to healing that can help you to avoid some of these physical side effects that could occur if left untreated. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you minimize the serious side effects of bulimia and find lasting recovery!