How to Cope with the Residual Effects of Bulimia

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How to Cope with the Residual Effects of Bulimia

September 18, 2012 Eating Disorders

Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the sufferer binges on large amounts of food and then purges of the food. Binges typically consist of high-calorie foods like fried food, cookies, potato chips, or chocolate. Purges may take the form of forced vomiting, abusing laxatives, excessive exercising, or taking diuretics. The cause of bulimia is unknown, but social, psychological or cultural factors may all play roles.

Symptoms of bulimia are secrecy about food, disappearing to the bathroom abruptly after meals, smelling of vomit, and eating large amounts of food or fasting. Physical symptoms might include puffy cheeks, scarred hands from excessive vomiting, yellow teeth, and constant fluctuations in weight.

The Lingering Effects of Bulimia

If bulimia is left untreated, there can be severe health consequences. Chronic binging and purging can cause electrolyte imbalances. Electrolytes are chemicals within the body (such as sodium, potassium, and chloride) that are required for health functioning of cell and organs. When electrolytes are out of whack due to dehydration from purging, the organs do not function properly. This can cause serious problems, including heart failure.

Bulimics often suffer from dental problems. Tooth decay may be evident, resulting from the surge of stomach acids in the mouth. Vomiting may also cause a rupture of the esophagus. If laxatives are abused, a bulimic may suffer from pancreatitis or peptic ulcers. Kidney damage is common in long-term bulimics. Malnutrition prevents the kidneys from being able to function properly. Many bulimics also encounter low bone density later in life.

The most common problem associated with bulimia is related to obesity. Obesity leads to a number of devastating health consequences, including type II diabetes, gallbladder disease, heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Unfortunately, the binging and fasting cycle causes many bulimics to have a stagnant metabolism.


The first step in recovering from damage associated with bulimia is of course to treat the disease itself. When you are no longer subjecting your body to binges and purges on a regular basis, the body is better able to heal. Your body will be able to do some of the healing on its own, but some healing must be a conscious choice by eating properly, sleeping enough, and getting exercise. Unfortunately some of the damage will be irreversible.

Eat a healthy diet. This probably goes without saying, but it is more important now that you are in recovery. Bulimics often suffer from "Lazy Bowel Syndrome," whereby they find it difficult to digest anything without gas and bloating. Your organs took a beating from this disease, and it’s up to you to get them back to where they function properly. Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, plenty of water, and lean meats or proteins. Bulimia damages the healthy bacteria in your gut, so it’s a good idea to supplement your diet with a probiotic.

Inevitably, your metabolism has suffered from years of erratic eating. When you are back on track with a healthy diet, it will become more and more difficult to lose weight, tempting you toward your old habits of purging food. Instead, drink green tea and exercise to boost your metabolism naturally. As a bonus, you will gain confidence, which will go a long way toward recovery.

Take supplements. Calcium is especially important for those recovering from the damage done by bulimia. If you do not supplement your diet with calcium, you are at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. Taking a multi-vitamin is a good idea too, as it will fill in all of your nutritional gaps while you restore a healthy diet.

As a bulimic, your teeth can suffer horribly. Tooth decay is preventable, but not treatable. If you already suffer from severe tooth decay, get to a dentist right away to have the existing problems treated. It will not be cheap, but it’s important to get your teeth fixed before they get worse. Use fluoride toothpaste to prevent further damage.

The brain can suffer from chronic bulimia. Some long-term consequences of bulimia on the brain include substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and impulsiveness. If you suffer from any of these, it is important to speak to your doctor immediately. Your doctor may suggest medication or therapy to work through this.

Unfortunately, some of the damage that bulimia wreaks on your body is irreversible. Your teeth may fall out, you may lose your fertility, and your circulation may suffer. What is important to remember is that you survived this horrifying disease. You are now on the road to recovery. Accept what you cannot change and work toward fixing what you can. Eat well, exercise often, get enough sleep, and surround yourself with positive and loving people. The body has an amazing ability to repair itself when it is nourished in such a way!

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