November 30, 2020

Recognising & Managing Eating Disorders

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The International Medical Group is a multi-disciplinary medical practice that offers professional and personalized care. Dr Bella Beraha, born in Venezuela, joins us from Miami. She is an M.D. in Internal Medicine and runs a successful medically supervised weight loss programme from the clinic. The International Medical Group performs a wide range of services from general family medicine and specialist services to Botox, dermal fillers and natural hormone replacement therapy. We always welcome new patients and will assist you in any way that we can to ensure that you get the treatment and care that you need. Stop by our offices or call us with any questions. We look forward to meeting you.

Our culture’s obsession with weight conveys an unavoidable message to adolescents. According to a 2007 survey, 35% of adolescent girls believed that they were overweight and 60% were actively attempting to lose weight. Alarmingly, in the days before questioning, 8 percent of these girls had tried vomiting or had taken laxatives to try ans lose weight.

Eating disorders are illnesses that cause serious disturbances to your normal diet, whether it is eating extremely small amounts of food or severely overeating. Being overly concerned with body weight or shape may also characterize an eating disorder. These disorders frequently develop during the teens or early adulthood but can also develop during childhood or later in life.

An eating disorder is a real, treatable medical illness that frequently coexists with other illnesses such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders. Symptoms can become life-threatening if the disorder goes untreated.

ANOREXIA NERVOSA

Characteristics:

  • Extreme thinness (emaciation)
  • A relentless pursuit of weight-loss
  • Unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Distorted body image
  • Lack of menstruation among girls and women
  • Extremely restricted eating

Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight, even when they are clearly underweight. Eating, food, and weight control become obsessions. People with anorexia nervosa typically weigh themselves repeatedly, portion food carefully, and eat very small quantities of only certain foods. Some people with anorexia nervosa may also engage in binge-eating followed by extreme dieting, excessive exercise, self-induced vomiting, and/or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

Some who have anorexia nervosa recover with treatment after only one episode. Others get well but have relapses. Still others have a more chronic, or long-lasting, form of anorexia nervosa, in which their health declines as they battle the illness.

Long term complications:

  • Thinning of the bones
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Growth of fine hair all over the body
  • Mild anaemia
  • Muscle wasting and weakness
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing and pulse
  • Damage to the structure and function of the heart
  • Brain damage
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy, sluggishness, or feeling tired all the time
  • Infertility.

BULIMIA NERVOSA


Characteristics:

  • Recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food and feeling a lack of control over these episodes, followed by behaviour that compensates for the overeating such as forced vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics, fasting, excessive exercise, or a combination of these behaviours.

Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia nervosa usually maintain what is considered a healthy or normal weight, while some are slightly overweight. But like people with anorexia nervosa, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behaviour is done secretly because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binge-eating and purging cycle happens anywhere from several times a week to many times a day.

Other symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen salivary glands in the neck and jaw area
  • Worn tooth enamel, increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acid
  • Acid reflux disorder and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids
  • Electrolyte imbalance (too low or too high levels of sodium, calcium, potassium and other minerals) which can lead to heart attack

EATING DISORDER NOT OTHERWISE SPECIFIED (ED-NOS)

This category includes people with clearly abnormal eating patterns and weight management habits who do not meet the criteria for anorexia or bulimia. The most common disorders are binge eating, night eating syndrome, sleep related eating disorders, and purging disorder.

Binge-eating is eating an amount of food in a period of time that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances. These episodes occur at least twice a week for at least six months. Binge eating is associated with a lack of control and with distress over the eating.

With a binge-eating disorder a person loses control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia, periods of binge-eating are not followed by purging, excessive exercise, or fasting and because of this, people with binge-eating disorders are often over-weight or obese. People with this disorder who are obese are at higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. They also experience guilt, shame, and distress about their binge-eating, which can lead to a repetition of the episodes.

TREATMENT

Adequate nutrition, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping purging behaviours are the foundations of treatment. Treatment plans are often tailored to individual needs and may include one or more of the following:

  • Individual, group, and/or family psychotherapy
  • Medical care and monitoring
  • Nutritional counselling
  • Medications
  • Some patients may also need to be hospitalized to treat problems caused by malnutrition or to ensure they eat enough if they are very underweight.

It is a common misconception that eating disorders only affect females. Males can be just as easily affected. If you suspect that you may have an eating disorder it is very important to seek treatment as soon as possible to minimize both the short and long-term damage to your body. See your doctor as soon as possible.

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