Eating Disorders


In recent years eating disorders seem to be making headlines as more and more celebrities confess to suffering from bulimia, anorexia nervosa, or sometimes both.  Both of these conditions are medical conditions that require treatment. When help is not sought, other health problems can occur, some of which may be fatal.


While the causes of eating disorders are not know, society's attitude toward appearances in general certainly do not help. They create an obsession with thinness and an intense fear of becoming fat. Females are 10 times more likely than males to suffer from an eating disorder.  However, the number of boys who are currently being diagnosed is on the rise.  Eating disorders typically occur during teenage or young adult years, but can also appear later in life.

Wrestling, body-building, dancing, swimming, gymnastics, and other athletics can demand a low body weight, which encourages the onset of eating disorders.

Weight control through the use of anorexia may give young girls a feeling of control they otherwise are missing in their lives.


A few of the most common types of eating disorders are discussed below:

Anorexia nervosa

with this disorder, people may literally starve themselves to thinness as they fear they will ultimately become fat. Usually about a third of the victims of this disorder were originally overweight before dieting. However, they cannot stop their efforts to lose weight and still perceive themselves as overweight. Despite their attempts to diet, they are obsessed with food. Females can lose so much weight that their menstrual periods are affected and they stop having periods. In males, the genitals may shrink back to pre-puberty size.

Some patients will end up weighing less than 15 percent of the normal weight for their height. Symptoms can include thinning of the bones, loss of menstrual periods, brittle hair and nails, dry skin, anemia, severe constipation, low blood pressure, depression, and lethargy.


Rather than dieting to the point of starvation,  some people get caught up in the cycle of binging and purging (bulimia). They will eat huge amount of food, feel a loss of control, and then experience intense feelings of guilt or self-disgust. To compensate, they vomit, use laxatives, or exercise excessively to rid the body of the excessive calories.

Symptoms can include a constantly inflamed and sore throat, swollen salivary glands, puffy cheeks and face, intestinal problems, loss of tooth enamel, kidney problems and severe dehydration. Abuse of laxatives can damage bowel muscles, making bowel movements without laxatives impossible.


Tthis disorder is has not been approved as a formal disorder, although some feel it should. The name says it all - these people consume huge quantities of food and feel unable to stop. A binge is followed by feeling shamed or disgusted. There is no purging involved, so the people tend to gain weight. About 3-0 percent of people who attend formal weight loss clinics are thought to have this disorder.


The occurrence of eating disorders likely will not go away unless society's positive view of thinness changes. However, if parents and other role models can recognize the symptoms and can talk the patient into seeking early treatment, the complications of anorexia and bulimia can be prevented. Some of the complications can include loss of enamel from the teeth, kidney failure, serious heart conditions, and suicide.


Those people suffering with anorexia will lose weight to the point of becoming dangerously thin. Individuals with bulimia often maintain a normal weight. Binge-eaters may sometimes even be overweight. Some people suffer from a mixture of these eating disorders, or will develop bulimia after having anorexia for several years. Some other conditions that may also be present include depression, substance abuse, and anxiety disorders.

A diagnosis can be made after clinical and behavioral assessments take place. Tests can be done to check for damage from purging or weight loss. These include blood tests, thyroid function and ECG.

Women and girls with low self-esteem who have concerns over their body image are known to be at an increased risk for developing these eating disorders. Because these conditions can impair the normal functioning of the body and cause long-term health complications, intervention is advised.


Extreme cases may be treated with hospitalization to correct malnutrition and regain weight lost. The first step is to get the weight back to a normal range for the person's height.

Consulting a nutritionist can help to establish new and better eating habits.

Because zinc plays a pivotal role in appetites, zinc supplementation is a part of the treatment of eating disorders. Liquid zinc is the recommended form. However, supplements of zinc in the form of powders, tablets, or capsules can also be taken.

Liquid zinc is also known to combat depression. This can be very important for people with eating disorders as the likelihood they also suffer from depression is quite high. Eating disorders are often developed as a result of a response to a traumatic event, so zinc is a good therapy to try.



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