Metabolic Abnormalities Resulting From Bulimia Nervosa

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Unlike anorexia nervosa, bulimia can be much more difficult to detect and identify. Many individuals who struggle with bulimia are within a normal weight range and may have visibly unrecognizable symptoms of this eating disorder.

However, many of the medical complications that arise from bulimia are due to the reoccurring purging that occurs after binging, which is characteristic of this mental illness. Purging that occurs through self-induced vomiting, abuse of diuretics or laxatives can cause a shift in normal metabolic functions in the person dealing with bulimia.

Metabolic Abnormalities Caused by Purging Can Be Life Threatening

Purging behaviors, causing abnormalities seen with sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, most commonly disrupts electrolyte levels and overall pH levels. Metabolic abnormalities may vary among individuals struggling with bulimia based on type of purging methods, as the different purging methods can impact the body differently.

A common metabolic complication resulting from severe vomiting includes hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis. Significant laxative abuse may result in normokalemic metabolic acidosis. Other metabolic abnormalities include hypocalcemica, hypophosphatemia, and hypomagnesmia.

woman-doctor-and-patient-blood-pressureAny type of metabolic abnormality can be potentially fatal to the person suffering these physical consequences. Metabolic abnormalities can lead to a host of complications, including cardiovascular problems, renal issues, and more depending on the type of purging behaviors and severity of the illness.

If you or someone you love has been struggling with bulimia, it is crucial to seek out professional help and medical attention as soon as possible. It is easy to fall under the misconception that everything is “okay” because there are not any visible changes resulting from bulimia, but the metabolic changes that may be occurring can be deadly.

Bulimia is Best Treated When Working with a Team of Professionals

The most effective form of treatment for bulimia nervosa and resulting metabolic abnormalities includes an interdisciplinary approach that ultimately helps reduce binge eating and urging as well as treat physical complications.

Working with a team of specialized eating disorder professionals can help address and treat the complex issues surrounding bulimia, including psychological conditions, psychiatric difficulties, nutritional health, and more, which can ultimately assist a person in healing and overcoming their struggle with bulimia.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

If you are a professional who treats individuals with bulimia, what are evidenced-based approaches for identifying and treating metabolic abnormalities? What is the importance of an interdisciplinary approach for bulimia treatment and recovery?

Crystal Headshot 2Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 17, 2016
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