Eating disorders are severe mental health conditions that can significantly impact the body. Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder have different effects on the physical health of those suffering from them. About 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States have an eating disorder at some point in their life, so it is essential to be aware of the potential physical consequences. From digestive issues to cardiovascular problems, read about some of the physical effects of eating disorders here.
1. Digestive Problems
People with anorexia often don’t consume enough calories or nutrients to support healthy digestion or absorption. This can lead to digestive issues such as constipation, acid reflux, and abdominal pain. Bulimia can also cause long-term damage to the digestive system due to repeated exposure to stomach acids when purging. Binge eating disorders can also lead to digestive problems because large amounts of food are consumed quickly, which can overwhelm the digestive system.
Depending on the severity of the eating disorder, these digestive issues can range from mild to severe and even life-threatening. Because of this, it is essential to seek medical help as soon as possible if you are struggling with an eating disorder. Some people may require medical intervention to help manage their symptoms.
2. Dental Damage
Eating disorders can cause people to experience dental problems due to acid reflux, vomiting, or a lack of proper nutrition. Vomiting can expose the teeth to stomach acids, which can erode enamel. This can cause cavities, tooth discoloration, and even tooth loss. Additionally, a lack of proper nutrition can cause teeth to become weak and brittle. Many people with eating disorders also experience dry mouth, which can lead to an increased risk of cavities and gum disease.
Visiting the dentist regularly is essential for people with eating disorders to minimize the risk of developing dental problems. They should also practice good oral hygiene to keep their teeth and gums healthy. Using fluoride mouthwash or fluoride toothpaste can help strengthen the teeth and reduce the risk of cavities. Some people may also need to visit a specialized dentist who can help manage their eating disorder-related dental problems.
3. Cardiovascular Issues
Because eating disorders involve imbalances in nutrition and energy levels, they can also negatively impact heart health. Anorexia is associated with low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and decreased oxygen levels in the blood due to dehydration and malnutrition. Bulimia has been linked with abnormal heart rhythms due to electrolyte imbalances caused by vomiting and laxative abuse. Binge eating disorder has been associated with high cholesterol levels and an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke, and coronary artery disease.
Because of these potential risks, people with eating disorders need to talk to their doctors about their heart health and get regular check-ups. The heart is a muscle, and proper nutrition is necessary for it to function correctly. Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help keep the heart healthy, and it is important to seek medical treatment if any cardiovascular symptoms arise.
4. Muscle Loss & Weakness
Eating disorders can cause significant muscle loss due to a lack of adequate nutrition over prolonged periods of time, as well as hormonal changes from malnutrition that affect muscle growth. Muscle weakness is another common symptom due to inadequate protein intake for muscle repair and maintenance coupled with decreased physical activity due to fatigue or lack of motivation. People who suffer from anorexia may also experience difficulty gaining or maintaining muscle mass even when exercising regularly because their bodies are not receiving enough energy sources (calories) from food intake to fuel muscle recovery and growth processes resulting in poor performance during workouts.
Many people with eating disorders also experience fatigue due to their physical state. It’s important for those struggling with an eating disorder to focus on getting enough rest and proper nutrition to build up their muscle strength. Regular physical activity, such as lightweight training or yoga, can also help to build muscle and strength. Additionally, engaging in activities that promote relaxation or mindfulness can help to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
Eating disorders have serious consequences for physical health, including but not limited to digestive issues, cardiovascular problems, muscle loss/weakness, hormonal imbalances, bone density loss/osteoporosis, skin problems, and more. If you think you may be suffering from an eating disorder, you must seek professional help as soon as possible so that steps can be taken before any permanent damage is done to your body by these life-threatening conditions. Remember – you do not have to go through this alone.