Taking good care of your body will yield life-long benefits. Eating well, getting regular exercise, and getting enough rest are typically indicative of good self-care. But, what happens when you don’t take care of your body the way you should? Surely eating habits can’t do that much to negatively affect your body.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), when the body is deprived of essential nutrients, like it is with the self-starvation cycle of anorexia nervosa, it must slow down all of its functions in order to conserve energy. This chain of events ushers in a slew of other serious medical consequences, including:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure – the risk of heart failure rises when the heart rate and blood pressure levels decline.
- Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones.
- Muscle loss and weakness.
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure.
- Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness.
- Dry hair and skin – hair loss is common.
- Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm.
Overeating, otherwise known as binge eating disorder, can make a negative impact on your body, too. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States, affecting 3.5 percent of women, 2 percent of men, and up to 1.6 percent of adolescents. Binge eating often results in many of the same health risks associated with clinical obesity, according to NEDA. Health risks connected to binge eating disorder include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Gallbladder disease
- Joint pain
- Sleep apnea
What if you binge eat, but then purge (vomit)? This eating disorder is called bulimia nervosa, and is a serious, potentially life-threatening disorder, according to NEDA. Bulimia is distinguished by a cycle of bingeing followed by self-induced vomiting in an attempt to reverse the effects of binge eating. Health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:
- Damage to the entire digestive system.
- Chemical imbalances that affect the function of the heart and other major organs.
- Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death. Electrolyte imbalance is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium and sodium from the body (result of purging behaviors).
- Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting.
- Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting.
- Chronic irregular bowel movements and constipation as a result of laxative abuse.
- Gastric rupture – an uncommon but possible side effect of binge eating.
Listed above are physical tolls that eating disorders take on the human body, but the mental tolls are just as extreme. Each of the above disorders accompanies a mental health condition, the most common being depression. Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest. It affects how you feel, think, and behave. Depression and eating disorders are serious conditions, but it is important to know that you are not alone and help is available.
For local help in the Grinnell area, consider contacting Capstone Behavioral Healthcare at 641-236-2347. This facility is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and is located at 200 4th Ave. W, Grinnell. Services include psychiatric medication management, individual counseling, and group therapy. You may also contact the licensed dietitians at Grinnell Regional Medical Center for dietary advice. Contact Elaine Hammes, MS, RDN, LD, at 641-236-2488 or Lily Swedenhjelm, RDN, LD, at 641-236-2435.