What is Anorexia Nervosa?
Anorexia has devastating physical consequences, characterized by extremely low body weight and obsessive fear of gaining weight, which manifests itself through depriving the body of food and adequate nutrients, and sometimes excessive level of exercise. Extreme food restrictions can lead to starvation, malnutrition, and in women, cessation of menstruation.
What are the symptoms of Anorexia?
- Refusal to maintain body weight over the minimum normal weight for age and height or failure to make expected weight gain during a period of growth
- Intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat even though underweight
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- Disturbance in the way in which one’s body weight, size or shape is experienced, undue influence of body shape and weight on self-evaluation, or denial of the seriousness of low body weight
- In females, absence of at least three consecutive menstrual cycles when otherwise expected to occur (primary secondary amenorrhea)
What are the Health Concerns for Those Suffering from Anorexia?
In anorexia nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. Thus, the body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious medical consequences:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure, which means that the heart muscle is changing. The risk for heart failure rises as the heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
- Amenorrhea and overall hormonal imbalance
- Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
- Decreased muscle mass and weakness.
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
- Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
- Dry hair and skin; hair loss is common.
- Growth of a soft layer of hair all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
Tell me More About Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are serious and complex problems. We need to be careful to avoid thinking of them in simplistic terms; for example, regarding anorexia as just craving sympathy and attention, or regarding bulimia as merely an addiction to food.
Eating disorders arise from a variety of physical, emotional, social, and familial issues, all of which need to be addressed for effective prevention and treatment. When an eating disorder gets out of control, it can be life threatening.
Normal eating includes the digestion of healthy foods, the intake of a mixed and balanced diet that contains enough nutrients and calories to meet the body’s needs, and a positive attitude towards food and eating, as opposed to negative attitudes which lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety. Normal eating does fluctuate, however it should not fluctuate to the point of leading to a nutrient deficiency or excess weight loss or gain.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder you need to seek professional help immediately to ensure rapid physical and emotional recovery.
Does eating effect your life emotionally, socially and cause you to be unwell? If you have strong feelings and thoughts, worries, and concerns about eating, your physical appearance, and what other people think of you, or have engaged in behaviours such as compulsive overeating and habitual dieting, then you may have an eating disorder.
Naturopathy can help you with physical, mental health and nutritional advice to resolve an eating disorder, because living in constant fear of gaining of weight is not a life we really want for ourselves. Important aspects of treatment include regular intake of healthy nutrition, adequate exercise, creation of self love and education about healthy eating habits.
Establishment of a well balanced diet is also essential to recovery. Nutritional counseling and advice may be useful to help a person identify their fears about food and the physical consequences of not eating well. Education about nutritional values of food can be beneficial, particular when the person has lost track of what normal eating is.
“The less people eat, the more they obsess about food”
“There is a difference between being fat and having the thought, ‘I am fat’”.
What are some of the Predisposing Factors for Anorexia?
There is no one factor responsible for a person developing an eating disorder. Each person is subject to different internal and environmental factors which may contribute to the development of disordered eating behaviors. The most common ones are:
- Obsessive-compulsive behavior patterns
- Life experience which set the motion
- Post traumatic stress
- Social-cultural influences: fashion magazines, athletes etc.
- Feelings of lack of control
- Family interactions
- Substance abuse
Personality characteristics of disordered eaters
- Highly-self motivated
- Regards others opinions highly
- Self-critical behavior
- Very sensitive to the others opinions
- Need for control; feels out of control
- Low self esteem
- Symptoms of depression
- Kind and caring
How Does Naturopathy Help for Anorexia?
- Establishment and education of correct eating habits and mindful eating
- Preventing long term health issues by restoring nutrition with a well-balance, individualized diet
- Correcting dysfunctional behaviors and negative thinking relating to food
- Resolving depression, anxiety and obsessive thinking
- Reducing fears around food and weight gain
- Cultivating positive thought about foods
- Being able to plan meals but without it dominating your life
- Stabilizing overeating and under eating patterns
- restoring and controlling a healthy weight with a well-balanced diet
- Reducing or eliminating behaviors or thoughts that originally led to the disordered eating