12 scary Bulimia Complications and How To Prevent Them
Bulimia complications are guaranteed if you suffer from this illness - even for a short time. Of course, the longer you're bulimic - the worse the bulimia complications will be.
Bulimia had it's grip on me for over a decade. I suffered many painful and embarrassing side effects. I was very sick. In fact... I'm amazed that I survived bulimia.
Read the bulimia complications below:
- Tearing of the Esophagus
- Digestive Problems
- Acid Reflux
- Hypo and Hyperglycemia
- Liver Failure
- Bone Density Problems
- Infertility and Bulimia Pregnancy Problems
- Kidney Infection and Failure
and then see...
Tearing of the Esophagus
Sometimes, repeated, self-induced vomiting can cause little tears in the esophagus. These tears are called Mallory-Weiss tears. Often people with Mallory-Weiss tears will notice blood in their vomit.
Although it can be quite disturbing seeing blood in your vomit - it is not one of the most serious bulimia complications. However, if you have any concerns, it is worth seeing a doctor for peace of mind!
Mallory Weiss tears usually heal in a couple of days without treatment. During those days, try to be extra gentle with your body and reduce purging as much as you possibly can.
One of the very common bulimia complications is dehydration. Being dehydrated makes you feel like crap! I know, because I spent a good part of 10 years dehydrated. Bulimics lose fluids when they throw up and/or use diuretics and laxatives.
The serious dangers of being dehydrated are kidney failure, heart failure, seizures, brain damage and even death. Yes, these are in severe cases of dehydration... but you may become so used to being dehydrated - that you don't realize how serious your case is.
Buy yourself a nice water bottle and start carrying it on you today :)
Bulimics suffer terribly from digestive problems. This is because your stomach gets so used to throwing up that all the natural balances get messed up! Bulimics can become deficient in digestive enzymes and in the healthy bacteria needed for digestion. This makes it very difficult to digest food and absorb nutrients from it.
It's partly the digestive problems you have that makes it so difficult to recover from bulimia. I remember when I first started holding food down... I would eat a tiny meal and feel so bloated and sore from it. My tummy would ache and I'd suffer from horrible constipation and 'wind'!
I didn't have enough digestive enzymes or healthy bacteria in my stomach to digest my food.
Taking digestive enzymes and a good brand of probiotics can be incredibly helpful in speeding up the recovery of your digestive system.
Acid Reflux is a very common symptom of bulimia. It happens when the valve that controls the stomach acid becomes faulty. Partially digested food (filled with acid and enzymes) gets brought back up into your throat - or even your mouth...
I remember when I was bulimic I found it hard to keep food down at all. When I first started resisting the urge to throw up after eating I would sometimes have to sleep upright to stop food leaking into my mouth during the night.
Acid Reflux can cause a condition called Barrett's Esophagus... which in rare cases can lead to cancer. It's a scary thought, but luckily it's pretty easy to screen for Barretts Esophagus... If you have any concerns, I'd suggest talking to your doctor about it.
One of the most uncomfortable side-effects of bulimia is constipation. Your stomach gets so used to throwing up that it finds it hard to digest anything. Your stomach's digestive enzymes are also very low, which makes the breaking down of your food really difficult. Food just seems to sit in your tummy for ages, doing nothing!
When it does eventually pass into your bowels, it can result in a long and painful experience on the toilet! Taking flaxseed oil can help to soften the stools and pass them through.
Thankfully, this improves as you move further into recovery :)
Anemia is the most exhausting of all bulimia complications - I had it terribly for many years! Anemia makes even the easiest things seem like absolute chores.
Some of the effects of anemia are fatigue and shortness of breath, infections and heart palpitations. Anemia will also make you pale and give you gray bags around your eyes. I had these big time - I hated it!
A simple blood test will tell you if you are anemic or not... If you are, it's a simple fix. Taking iron supplements should help you to see a quick improvement and an increase in your energy levels (within a few weeks).
Pancreatitis is one of the most dangerous bulimia complications... It occurs when digestive enzymes attack the pancreas. This is a painful illness that can be life-threatening. Pancreatitis in bulimics can be caused by the excessive use of laxatives or diet pills.
So please try to work on reducing your use of these pills... I promise your body can handle food :)
Hypo and Hyperglycemia
Hypoglycemia is quite common in bulimics. Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar levels are too low. Some of the long term effects of hypoglycemia are severe confusion, disorientation, unconsciousness, seizures, comas and even death.
Hyperglycemia is when there is too much glucose in your blood plasma. In bulimics, it's caused by binging. Usually when you eat huge amounts of sugars and complex carbohydrates (bread, pastries etc) Some of the effects of hyperglycemia are stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure, circulation disorders, kidney disease and nerve damage.
Your liver is an essential piece of machinery in your body. It helps to remove waste from your cells and assists with your digestion.
Bulimics are at risk of damaging their livers... Or, in extreme cases causing liver failure... which can lead to death.
Bone Density Problems
Thinning of the bones is probably the most irreversible bulimia complications. It results from lack of nutrients and lowered hormone levels. Bones become brittle and break or fracture easily.
In serious cases, Osteoporosis occurs. Osteoporosis is a very debilitating disease. Normally it's seen in old grannies and grandpa's... but eating disorders cause it to occur at a young age. For example, about 50% of young anorexia patients have osteoporosis. Shocking isn't it?
The dangers in bulimia aren't just here and now. They can effect you for the rest of your life.
Drinking green smoothies each day (made from spinach, banana and calcium rich yoghurt or milk) can be a good way protect your bones.
Infertility and bulimia Pregnancy problems
Bulimics will often lose their periods, have hormonal imbalances, vitamin deficiencies and even malnutrition. All of these factors can affect your ability to have children.
I lost my period for 2 years and suffered from eating disorders for over a decade... Because of this I'm worried that I might be infertile. Only time will tell though - I'm crossing my fingers!
To make it as likely as possible for you to conceive - please work on nourishing your body and holding foods down. The Bulimia Recovery Program can help you with this.
Bulimia during pregnancy can have some dangerous side effects too. There are many complications you could experience... Including miscarriage and postnatal depression. Please visit my bulimia pregnancy page for more info and recovery tips.
Kidney Infection and Failure
Have you watched "Finding Nemo"? Do you remember the cleaning station? Well... That's what our kidneys are... the cleaning stations of our bodies. They clear away the nasties such as poisons and acids.
Long term binging and purging causes your kidneys to stop functioning properly. When your kidneys aren't functioning, all the 'yukky stuff' has nowhere to go. Slowly, but surely, the toxins poison your body. This effects your bones, brain and nervous system.
OUR BODIES ARE RESILIENT - THEY WILL FIGHT BACK!
If there is one thing I have learnt from my recovery and from coaching other women in recovery - it's that our bodies don't give up easily! They are beautiful and resilient pieces of machinery and given then chance, they will heal!
Just the other day I was talking to one of the members of the online Bulimia Recovery Program I run (for more info on this successful online program, click here)...
She said that she had been binging and purging multiple times a day for 10 years. She had only stopped binging and purging 2 weeks earlier, but she already felt like her digestive system was getting back to normal!
I was so happy for her...
It reminded me that our bodies want to be healthy and to heal... and if we give them the chance - they do just that!
Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of your-bulimia-recovery.com
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community