Medical Nutrition Therapy and Eating Disorders

Contributor: Nicole Garber, M.D., serves as Chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Eating Disorders at Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders.

medical-563427_1280Every year millions of Americans suffer from an eating disorder. Regardless of whether it’s anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating, each carries significant physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual consequences.

Eating disorders are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions. Exactly how serious a particular case is depends on how early it is identified and treated.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation. Those who suffer from it can become so malnourished that every organ in their body can be damaged.

Complications of anorexia nervosa include:

  • Reduction in bone density resulting in an increased risk of fractures
  • Anemia
  • Severe dehydration leading to kidney failure
  • Heart problems
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Bulimia Nervosa

my_redhead_girl_by_violetsunflowerBulimia nervosa is marked by recurrent binge and purge cycles that can cause an incredible amount of damage to the digestive system as well as the rest of the body.

Some of the health consequences of bulimia nervosa include:

  • Peptic ulcers and gastric reflux
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Injury to the throat and mouth as a result of inducing vomiting
  • Inflammation and damage to the esophagus
  • Erosion of enamel on teeth due to frequent exposure to gastric acid

Binge Eating

Binge eating is more than eating too much every now and then. It’s characterized by compulsively overeating large amounts of food with a feeling of helplessness over the ability to stop.

Most of the health consequences of binge eating are associated with obesity and include:

  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal problems
  • High blood pressure

What is Medical Nutrition Therapy?

at the grocery storeMedical nutrition therapy (MNT) is considered one of the three important aspects of a comprehensive treatment plan for eating disorders according to the American Psychological Association. In MNT, a registered dietician formulates individualized meal plans while taking into account each individual’s unique circumstances and goals.

While administering MNT is largely dependent on an individual’s history and type of eating disorder, the goal in each case is similar: to first stabilize the patient’s health and medical conditions as a result of the eating disorder, restore a healthy body weight, and ultimately teach healthful nutritional habits that can sustain a balanced lifestyle.

Food as Medicine

The basic premise of medical nutrition therapy is the concept that food is medicine.

The components of MNT include:

  • Intake assessment: A critical part of the MNT process is the initial evaluation that includes a comprehensive past and present dietary history as well as other relevant issues that impact the eating disorder.
  • Dietary modification: This component of MNT includes the customization of a diet that takes into consideration the specific nutritional needs of each person.
  • Patient education: In order to create lasting success, patient education is crucial. This can include methods of meal planning and preparation as well as strategies on how to remain successful.
  • Aftercare: Periodic evaluations of diet and nutrition provide an opportunity to evaluate how the patient is managing and whether or not modifications need to be made.

With help, the effects of an eating disorder can be treated and health restored. MNT provides the basis for the nutritional support essential for a full recovery.

About the Author:

Nicole-Garber-MD-300x300Nicole Garber, M.D., is Chief of Pediatric and Adolescent Eating Disorders at Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders. Dr. Nicole Garber is one of the few pediatric and adolescent eating disorders experts who is also a Board Certified Psychiatrist and a Board Certified Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. Because of this dual board certification, Dr. Nicole Garber provides a comprehensive developmental perspective that enhances her work with patients of all ages.

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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Baxter Ekern, MBA on November 29, 2023
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