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What are the side effects of bulimia?

Besides the obvious physical problems associated with eating disorders such as bulimia, there are also a number of more subtle issues that are tougher to recognise. Internal physical problems and the potential to develop mental health issues, such as depression, are also real dangers faced by those who struggle with bulimia and other eating disorders.

As bulimia is seen as a compulsive eating disorder, the immediate assumption is that the sole danger is the patient could suffer from weight loss and malnutrition. But because of the behaviours traditionally involved with this debilitating condition, there are secondary psychological and physical side effects which could cause lasting problems for the sufferer.

Physical effects of bulimia

Bulimia is chiefly diagnosed by the presence of the binge-purge cycle. Unlike someone with anorexia, who constantly controls food intake by eating the absolute minimum, someone with bulimia will typically ingest food in huge amounts and then totally evacuate it from there bodily system. This is usually brought about by vomiting. The first factor to take into account is the fact that the patient is making themselves sick unnaturally. This places pressure on the individual both physically and psychologically. Vomiting naturally will create acids. If this is done only rarely then it's likely that there will be no lasting damage. However, when this happens frequently, the mouth, teeth, tongue, throat, oesophagus and stomach, are all affected with constant purging. As the acid from the stomach comes up through the oesophagus and mouth, it comes into contact with the linings within the body and will begin to react and remove the lining that is necessary to protect the inner parts of the body. The stomach acid will also remove the enamel on the teeth.

Depletion of essential nutrients

As the ingested food is purged, the body is also losing the essential vitamins, proteins and minerals that keep the body healthy. The most dangerous result of this is potassium depletion, but also, the lack of other minerals like sodium and calcium is very harmful and can have negative effects on the heart and bones. The excess acids and reduction in essential nutrients can lead to hair loss, vocal chord damage, irregular heart beat, stomach ulcers, menstrual dysfunction, weak muscles and damage to the immune system.

Psychological effects of bulimia

Psychologically, food is often used as a comfort mechanism - to replace something missing in the patient’s life. The patient feels relief when eating or gorging, but in order to prevent gaining abnormal weight the intake must be ejected. Eating disorder studies have shown that someone with bulimia may begin to display social issues and withdraw from their friends and family. Loss of self-worth often follows and when the eating disorder sets in they are also dealing with an issue that has become out of control, which often leads to a feeling of powerlessness and depression.

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