Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

Elina Dawoodani profile Authored by Elina Dawoodani on 15 May 2014 - 18:01.

Eating disorders are a group of serious health complications that can at times be life threatening. These are basically psychiatric disorders that arise from obsession to achieve ideal body shape or weight. 

Sometimes, this obsession is so severe that it may lead to disorders like Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa. They mostly affect adolescent girls and young women who start developing fear of becoming overweight. These disorders not only affect the digestive system but result in many chronic and life threatening complications.

The three types of eating disorders are:

1.     Anorexia Nervosa

2.     Bulimia Nervosa

3.     Binge eating disorder

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is a disease characterized by extreme fear of gaining weight, deformation of body shape, and declination to maintain normal healthy weight. In specific, it means loss of appetite to such an extent that it turns into a disease.

Diagnostic criteria:

1.     Denial to maintain normal healthy weight, which results in body weight less than 85 percent of that expected.

2.     BMI of less than 18.

3.     Extreme fear of gaining weight, even if he/she is underweight.

4.     Amenorrhea i.e. absence of three consecutive menses.

5.     Low self esteem is also observed in such patients. They take body weight as the paramount parameter of self evaluation.

Medical complications of Anorexia Nervosa:

Loss of hunger

These people lose abundant weight, but still deny hunger and won’t accept the fact that they are thin.


Their skin becomes dry and scaly.


Swelling on different parts of the body can be observed.

Hormonal changes

Parotid glands grow in size.

Hair growth

There is an overgrowth of hair on the body.

Extreme thinness

Thinness is so severe that bones protrude through the skin because of lack of body fat.

Yellowness of palms

The palms turn yellow in colour.

Fertility Problems

These women generally face fertility problems in reproductive years of life.

Sexual Problems

Loss of sex drive and erectile dysfunction is seen in men.

Heart Problems

Abnormal heart rhythm, poor circulation is observed.

Problems with the brain and nerves

This includes occurrence of fits, poor concentration and bad memory.


Other complications include:

Nutritional management of Anorexia Nervosa:

The management of severe anorexia is considered in three consecutive phases:

1.     Resuscitation: Identifying medical emergencies and treating them.

2.     Repair: Repair of cellular activity is paramount in order to correct the organ functions. Nutrient deficiencies have to be thus cured.

3.     Repletion: Returning the body composition to normal is the most important thing and to achieve this slow and systematic repletion techniques have to be considered.


Other treatment options for eating disorders:

The earlier this disorder is diagnosed, the faster the recovery is possible. Below are a few other options that can help in the treatment of eating disorders.


This is the most effective way of curing eating disorders. One can learn to manage stress and mood swings, thus impacting  his/her eating habits. This helps restore self-esteem of the person. Family members and other loved ones can play an important role in application of this therapy.


By loving oneself, accepting oneself and enjoying life again, one can overcome this disease.


When the above options do not work, one can opt for medication. Although medicines cannot cure eating disorder, it can help in controlling the food urges and aid in stress management. Too much of medication also has to be avoided.


In worst case scenario, when it becomes difficult to handle at home, hospitalization becomes necessary. Some hospitals and clinics have specialized eating disorder programs that offer intensive treatment. Also other medical complications that may arise because of eating disorders can also be dealt with by the doctors when hospitalized.



  • Consumption of 1000-1600 kcal is suggested by experts. Consult a nutritionist for guidance on the same.
  • High biological value proteins should be preferred. They include milk, eggs, animal foods etc. Vegetarians can opt for cereal-pulse combinations such as idli, khichdhi etc.
  • Prefer whole milk over toned milk.
  • Consume Iron rich foods like spinach, meat, nachni etc. to correct haemoglobin levels.
  • Calcium and vitamin D rich foods have to be also included e.g. milk and its products, butter, liver etc.

The other most common eating disorder is Bulimia Nervosa.

What is Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by episodes of binge eating followed by self induced vomiting.

Diagnostic criteria:

1.     Eating too often and too much.

2.     Feeling that one cannot stop eating.

3.     Inappropriate behaviour post meal to maintain weight like self induced vomiting, use of laxatives, excessive fasting or excessive exercising.

4.     Low self esteem. Influence of body shape or size for self evaluation.

Signs and symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Purging
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Swollen glands
  • Depressive moods
  • Overeating due to stress
  • Binges, minimum twice a week for three months
  • Frequent fluctuations in weight

Medical complications of Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Dental problems
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Poor skin and hair
  • Swollen salivary glands
  • Bowel problems
  • Heart problems
  • Muscular paralysis
  • Urinary infections
  • Renal impairment
  • Chemical imbalance

Management of Bulimia Nervosa:                          

  • Treatment of bulimia includes both psychological and nutritional counselling. Proper eating habits have to be instilled in one’s routine. Three meals and two snacks must be taken every day.
  • It is recommended by experts that 1500 kcal should be consumed daily.
  • Consumption of energy dense foods is suggested. Moderate amount of protein should be consumed.
  • Regular exercises help in both weight management and relief from stress.

Binge eating disorder

Binge eating disorder is a disease characterized by occurrence of binge eating episodes minimum twice a week for six months. It is a form of psychiatric disorder. In many cases, it’s an outcome of stress.

Health complications of binge eating disorder:

Management of binge eating disorder:

Following these strategies will help overcome this disorder

  • Following a proper three-meal diet
  • Exercising
  • Managing stress
  • Avoiding food temptations
  • Sleeping adequately











*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.