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All About Bulimia Nervosa

American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee battled bulimia for five years, but seeked out help after nailing her AI audition.
Courtesy of Fox

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are both serious eating disorders. They are psychiatric illnesses that affect more than five million Americans - and that's both men and women! If this figure doesn't startle you, then listen to this - thousands of these five million people will die from the physical problems resulting from these conditions. Eating disorders aren't limited to the extremes of anorexia and bulimia. They also include binge eating and dangerous fad dieting. In a culture where thin is in, nearly every American woman, man and child has suffered at one time or another from issues of weight, body shape and self-image.

What is Bulimia?

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder that involves episodes of binge eating, followed by episodes of purging. Simply put, a bulimic rapidly eats huge amounts of food at one time (binging) and then rids it from the body (purging). A binge episode can involve eating up to 20,000 calories and usually involves "comfort foods." That's more than 10 times your daily caloric intake! To rid the body of food, bulimics resort to, one or any combination of, fasting, vomiting, compulsive exercising, abusing laxatives and/or diuretics (substances or drugs that make you go to the bathroom), and enemas (flushing out the bowels with fluid). Binging and purging is usually followed by intense feelings of guilt and shame. Despite this incredible physical abuse, and contrary to popular opinion, the bulimic may not be visibly underweight and may even be slightly overweight. Regardless, the bulimic - just like the anorexic - uses self-destructive eating behaviors to deal with psychological problems. Often these problems go much deeper than the obsession with food and weight.

Bulimia Warning Signs

Think you or someone you know is bulimic? There's more involved than just possible weight loss, weakness and exhaustion. Consider some of these danger signs.

  • Binging, or eating uncontrollably.
  • Attempting to lose weight by strict dieting, fasting, compulsive exercise, vomiting or abusing laxatives or diuretics.
  • Using the bathroom frequently; immediately after meals.
  • Obsessed with body weight.
  • Depression, mood swings, feeling out of control.
  • Swollen glands in face and neck.
  • Regularly experience reflux or heartburn.
  • Bloating.
  • Irregular periods.
  • Digestive problems such as constipation, indigestion, and Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome.
  • Tooth decay caused by stomach acid from constant vomiting.
  • Sore throat caused by stomach acid.
  • Vomiting blood.

Bulimia Can Kill

Anything to look good may be the motto, but the price is way too high! Check out a few bulimia by-products. Yuck!

  • Dehydration.
  • Damage to the bowels, liver and kidneys.
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Electrolyte imbalance, which leads to irregular heartbeat, and in some cases, cardiac arrest.
  • Cancer in the squamous cell lining of the throat, from years of chronic vomiting.

Facts to Chew On

  • Five percent of college women are bulimic.
  • Ten percent of bulimics will die from starvation, cardiac arrest, other medical complications from the disease or suicide.

Have you suffered from an eating disorder? and we'll publish a collection of your experiences and thoughts on this subject.

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Comments

JennyD

JennyD wrote:

u don't have to be thin
commented: Sat Sep 14, 2013

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