Effects of Bulimia Nervosa on the Digestive System
After reading this, you may think that I am exaggerating about what can happen. I’ve seen the results in my own body and have read many devastating stories of how this disorder affected other women. Fortunately, the death rate among bulimics is low, but the damage the disease can do to the body is widespread.
I lived with bulimia for 20 years and I dealt with the emotional and physical problems that my eating disorder caused. It’s pretty obvious that bulimia is not good for your body. Just one of the impacts it can have, as it did me, is digestive problems.
The Effects of Bulimia on the Digestive System
Indigestion – Food is meant to be eaten, digested, and then absorbed into the blood stream. The blood stream then transports nutrients to the organs and the other parts of your body. When you binge, you overwhelm the digestive system and then when you vomit you cause further upset and disruption. Indigestion and bloating are inevitable.
Constipation, Diarrhea, Bloody Stool – The effects of bulimia can occur in both extremes – difficulties passing a bowel movement as well as loose stool. When you induce vomiting after bingeing, you lose a lot of water along with the undigested food that you purge. This causes constipation because the body doesn’t have enough water to process the food that was absorbed.
Alternatively, if a bulimic uses purgatives, laxatives, or diuretics this can cause diarrhea. In long-term abuse cases much greater damage can occur to the colon and lower intestine.
With excessive laxative abuse, there is damage to the gastrointestinal tract causing bloody stools. With repeated binging and purging, dehydration, electrolyte depletion and many other systems can be disrupted.
Acid Reflux – This is when the bile of the stomach rises up to sear your gullet (heartburn) and you can practically taste it in your mouth. Acid reflux can be really severe and can cause inflammation of the food pipe and throat. In my case, I developed an ulcer in my esophagus from the acids in my stomach eating away at the lining. Luckily it was a short-term problem and the lining of my throat healed itself.
Abdominal Pain, Gas and Bloating – As the digestive disturbances increase and there is more damage to your insides, gas builds up, bloating, pain and distension of your abdomen could occur. Laxative abuse can irritate your intestine’s nerve endings, causing them to become weak and inhibit them from triggering contractions. Abuse of laxatives or enemas depletes the mucus from the intestinal lining and can cause bowel infections. If the lower bowel loses muscle tone, it becomes limp and isn’t able to produce contractions.
If you are starting to notice the impacts of bulimia in your own body, listen to the warning signals your body is sending you. I want to offer a realistic caution here – the digestive disturbances that are the side effects of bulimia may well continue for a period even after you achieve normal eating patterns. This occurs as your digestive system takes the time to adjust to healthier eating patterns.
My ulcer and digestion problems were relatively mild and went away when I was no longer a bulimic. Yet, I suspect as I grow older I will pay continue to pay the price for what I did to my body for those 20 years. The sooner you overcome bulimia, the more likely your body will heal itself and not show long term effects of this eating disorder.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
© 2011 PollyMertens