Do you have a voice in your head saying “you’re fat” or “you’re not good enough”? Many women across the world have this inner voice that won’t be quiet. The inner voice can be meaner and more degrading to us than we would let anyone else be to us. Sometimes this leads people to overeat, eat excessively small portions or eat and then vomit. These are all coping mechanisms that some women have to deal with that voice in their head. People with eating disorders are usually highly concerned about their weight and the shape of their body. They are obsessed with it. Some of the more common eating disorders are binge-eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and anorexia bulimia.
No one knows for certain what causes a person to have an eating disorder. Some of the studies have been done with functional magnetic resonance imaging showing people who have anorexia bulimia have different brain patterns than a healthy woman when it comes to using self-control or impulse control. Research is also being done on genetics to see if that may be a contributing factor as well. Other factors are psychological, behavioral, and social aspects that all play together to make us who we are.
Binge-eating disorder is where a person eats in excess at any given point. They do not vomit or exercise or fast afterwards, so therefore they are typically overweight and obese. They lose control over what they eat and this causes them to feel guilty and ashamed. These feelings then feed the need to eat more to calm those feelings and this leads to the never ending cycle of binge-eating.
A person who has anorexia nervosa will pay close attention to every little thing they put in their mouths. They count calories, eat a restricted diet, or on the opposite extreme will eat a lot and then purge, fast or exercise excessively. They may even use laxatives or enemas to eliminate the food they eat. Some people are able to overcome anorexia nervosa after one treatment. However, there are many others who cannot stop themselves and end up with rapidly declining health or dead. They are not eating enough to maintain their bodily functions and yet cannot stop themselves from their habits. Some of the apparent symptoms of anorexia nervosa are: eating very restrictive foods and meals, no longer menstruating (applies only to females), fear of gaining weight that overrides anything and everything, extremely thin to the point of emaciation, cannot give up on being thin or their perception of thin, distorted body image where even if they are a normal weight they think they are fat. If they continue to pursue their thinness despite receiving treatment then they could end up with worse symptoms. These include: brain damage, thinning of bones, infertility, organ failure, severe constipation, dry brittle hair and nails, damage to the heart, anemia, and fatigue.
Anorexia bulimia is where a person will over eat and then immediately purge their body of the food they just ate. They will make themselves vomit, they may take laxatives or diuretics, they might exercise in excess, or a combination thereof. They are ashamed of their overeating and lack of control so that is what causes them to purge. A person who is bulimic is usually of a normal weight or perhaps even a little overweight. Similar to a person who suffers from anorexia nervosa, they have a fear of gaining weight and they don’t like their body shape or size. A person who is bulimic will try to hide the fact that they are bulimic because they feel ashamed of themselves and their actions. A person who has bulimia may overeat and purge multiple times in one day or a few times over a week. Some other symptoms of bulimia are: tooth decay or worn enamel from the stomach acids, dehydration, a chronic sore throat, and an electrolyte imbalance which can lead to a heart attack, intestinal issues due to over use of laxatives, and other stomach issues.
Eating disorders are primarily seen in females and can start as early as the teenage years, but can emerge at any age. Males can also be affected by eating disorders such as muscle dysmorphia. Muscle dysmorphia is where they will go to extremes to build muscle mass by taking steroids and other muscle enhancing drugs. Men are not typically diagnosed with an eating disorder because mainstream doctors see eating disorders as a female disease.
Eating disorders can lead to death. In fact a person who has anorexia nervosa is 18 times more likely to die an early death than someone their same age. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/, over 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the United States and 50% of them also suffer from depression. Another sad statistic from a study done in 1991 is that 80% of 10 year old little girls are afraid they are fat and 69% of girls in the 5th through 12th grades said magazine pictures influenced their idea of the perfect body. Athletes tend to be more likely to suffer from anorexia because they have common beliefs around perfectionism, compulsion to excel, body image distortion, pre-occupation with weight and what foods they should or should not be eating, hyperactivity, and their competitive nature, whether that be with themselves or others.
The traditional medical intervention can be costly. An inpatient care facility can cost $30,000 a month. And most people need to stay in the residential care programs for 3 months or longer. However, medical coverage may or may not cover long term care because there is no long term study proving that traditional treatments work. Eating disorders can be difficult to diagnose because there are usually other problems such as depression, anxiety, and drug abuse that make the picture unclear.
Traditional health care typically includes medication, psychotherapy, and more often than not a good nutritionist. The first order of business is to get the person to gain weight to where their body can fully function. Part of the treatment plan is to medicate with such drugs as antidepressants such as Zoloft or a mood stabilizer such as Lithium. The idea is to help relieve the anxiety and depression that may be the root cause of the disorder. These drugs are toxic and have side effects such as: blurred vision, nausea, slurred speech, dizziness, severe trembling, and seizures just to name a few. The right dosage and type of medication can take time to narrow down. The other part of treatment is psychotherapy which can be done in a group setting, with the family or just as the individual. There is some promising research done on the Maudsley approach, also known as Family Based Therapy (FBT), where the parents take responsibility for feeding their adolescent child. This approach allows the child to stay home and continue in their normal everyday life while getting help for their eating disorder. Studies have shown that with FBT, 75%-90% of the people have fully kept on their weight at the 5 year follow up.http://www.maudsleyparents.org/whatismaudsley.html. The Maudsley approach usually takes about 1 year of 15-20 treatments. It has been shown to be effective for adolescents who have had anorexia nervosa for 3 years or less.
Anorexia bulimia and binge-eating are treated very similarly. They both use medication as part of the treatment plan. The FDA has approved the use of Prozac, an antidepressant, for treatment of bulimia and binge-eating. Some of Prozac’s side effects include: insomnia, impotence, low libido, weight changes, dizziness, sneezing, sore throat, and can cause suicidal thoughts, especially in adolescents. This medication is believed to help reduce the binge-eating and purging urges, improve attitude towards food, and reduce the likelihood of a relapse. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is the most common form of therapy used to treat both bulimia and binge-eating. Through CBT people learn to focus on what their underlying issues are and how to overcome them in a healthier manner. The person learns how to identify distorted thoughts and inaccurate beliefs and to change their behavior in a more positive way.
Besides the traditional approach for treatment of eating disorders there are alternative and complementary modes of healthcare which can also help. Some of these options will be discussed below.
Homeopathy: an energetic medicine founded by Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago. It treats the person as a whole, meaning both the physical and mental aspects of the person are treated with the remedy. Remedies are made from plants, animals, or minerals and are so highly diluted that by the time a person takes the remedy all that is left is the energetic imprint of the original substance. Homeopathy is therefore natural and nontoxic with no side effects. However, this is not a one pill fix all. Recovery with homeopathy takes time. The initial intake usually lasts an hour to 2 hours and then there are follow ups every month. At the follow ups the remedy potency may be adjusted or the remedy maybe changed. Because each person is treated for their unique symptoms there is not one remedy for treating eating disorders. Some common remedies for treating eating disorders include: Sepia, Natrum Muriaticum, Arsenicum, Carcinosin, Pulsatilla, and Platina. The cost of a homeopathic consult can be $135 or more.
Acupuncture: A Chinese form of medicine where needles are inserted at certain points along the meridians to help release blocked energy. The Chinese believe that “stuck” energy is what causes disease. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in treating depression and anxiety which are usually present in people who suffer from an eating disorder. Treating these underlying conditions with acupuncture can help bring harmony back to the body.
Aromatherapy: Use the essential oils can help alleviate stress and anxiety associated with eating disorders. Citrus type oils, like those from lemon, can help with some of the digestive issues as well.
Vitamins and minerals: deficiencies in vitamins and minerals are a common occurrence in people who have eating disorders. It is important to add them back with a daily multivitamin, essential fatty acids like Omega 3’s to decrease inflammation in the body, coQ10 to help support the immune system, 5 HTP to help normalize mood swings, creatine for muscle support, and probiotics for immunity and gastrointestinal support. There are herbs too that can help to promote overall health even though they may not specifically help one to recover from anorexia and bulimia: ashwagandha (patchouli plant) for stress and overall health, Holy Basil for stress, milk thistle to support the liver, and catnip to help support the digestive system and nervous system.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): is a system of healing that combines acupressure and neuro linguistics programming (NLP). A person taps on certain key points along their meridians while repeating several key phrases. The wording use will vary depending on whatever it is that you are trying to overcome or heal. There are videos on YouTube that can show you how to do this form of healing. However, it is best done with a practitioner as there may be several layers to clear one issue.
Neurofeedback: a person’s brain is hooked up to a computer with electrodes. While watching different videos on the computer the brain is trained new neuro pathways to overcome depression, anxiety, compulsion, and other issues involved with eating disorders. Each session lasts about an hour and can cost $150 or more. Multiple visits are required to see improvements.
Yoga and meditation: postures, breathing, and meditation are all a part of yoga which is a spiritual practice help to connect the mind and body. A study found that when yoga was added to part of a treatment program for anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, that there was a significant decrease in the eating disorder symptoms.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elaine-gavalas/yoga-eating-disorders_b_3664588.html. Plus they reported less anxiety and less depression. Yoga was also helpful in alleviating binge eating urges and increased the physical activity of those that suffer from binge eating. Mindfulness is where you bring all of your thoughts to the present moment. Often time’s people with an eating disorder get consumed by their negative persistent thoughts and mindfulness can be a way to break that cycle. Mindfulness is being aware of thoughts, tastes, touch, all in the moment and changing any negative thoughts to positive ones. By practicing mindfulness you are able to control your thoughts not the other way around.
There are just some of the alternative and complementary modes of healthcare available. Some people use them in conjunction with traditional treatment plans. Most alternative treatments are not covered by healthcare insurance so must be paid out of pocket. Each person is unique, so what works for one person may not work for another.
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