We’ve all been there: turning to food when feeling lonely, bored, upset or stressed. But for some people, turning to food becomes a compulsion and an obsession.
Bulimia nervosa is a serious, possibly life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and purging to avoid gaining weight. People with bulimia tend to go on eating binges where they consume thousands of calories in a short period of time. This is typically followed by an attempt to rid the food from their body using laxatives or self-induced vomiting.
For someone struggling with bulimia, life is a constant battle between the desire to lose weight and the overwhelming compulsion to binge eat. Because this behavior is usually carried out in secret, it can become incredibly overwhelming.
In addition to mental stress, continued bingeing and purging also puts a great deal of strain on the body. Unlike people with anorexia, people with bulimia may not appear to have experienced significant weight loss. However, complications due to bulimia can put your life at risk.
Here are five of the negative health issues associated with bulimia:
Chronic vomiting takes a serious toll on tooth enamel, causing it to wear away – most commonly on the inside surfaces of the teeth. Tooth decay, swollen gums and gum disease are common in those suffering from bulimia.
People who suffer from bulimia for an extended period of time are at risk of more severe consequences. Over time, the enamel on the teeth may become completely dissolved, exposing the dentine underneath. When the dentine dissolves, it results in the nerve inside the tooth being exposed, requiring a root canal or extraction.
Ruptured Stomach Or Esophagus
Although gastric rupture is thought to be a rare complication of bulimia, it’s also one that’s especially serious because it’s life threatening. In some cases, binge eating becomes so severe that the stomach stretches far beyond its normal capacity. This causes a rupture that causes the stomach’s contents to leak into the body.
Additionally, cycles of self-induced vomiting create the potential for tearing of the esophagus. Small tears typically produce bloody vomit, but in severe cases, it’s possible for the esophagus to rupture.
The use of laxatives to purge the body of food frequently causes electrolyte imbalances, which can lead to heart damage or a heart attack – both of which can be fatal. Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium, sodium and chloride from the body as a result of purging behaviors.
Inability To Get Pregnant
Bulimia can have serious consequences on a woman’s reproductive system. It can interfere with your menstrual cycle or stop it altogether. One of the more serious consequences is that bulimia can cause your ovaries to stop releasing eggs, meaning that conceiving a child becomes impossible.
Pregnant women who continue to engage in bingeing and purging behaviors face additional complications for themselves and their babies. Some of these complications include:
- Maternal high blood pressure
- Gestational diabetes
- Premature birth
- Breech birth
- Higher risk of a C-section
- Low birth weight in babies
- Birth defects
- Difficulty breastfeeding
Bulimia generates a tremendous amount of mental fatigue, but it can also lead to muscle weakness. Malnutrition from purging makes it difficult for muscles and supporting tissues to repair and maintain themselves, which leads to achy joints and muscles.
Written by: Christina Bockisch