Eating disorders are a type of psychological conditions that are associated with unhealthy eating habits and diet patterns, which adversely affects our health and mental wellness. Although the disorder appears to be related to eating it also involves a lot of emotional, hereditary, personality traits and social aspects.
Eating disorder is a serious health concern because if left untreated, they might result in various disorders and prove fatal at times. Some of the common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, orthorexia and binge-eating disorder.
In this article, we will specifically talk about some of the serious health consequences of eating disorders.
1. Effect on Cardiovascular System - Eating disorders might have an adverse effect on our heart functioning. Under disorders like anorexia and bulimia, a person becomes more prone to developing nutritional deficiencies. Lack of adequate nutrition deprives our body of essential nutrients like good fats, iron, proteins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc. which are essential for our heart to pump blood and perform effectively. Similarly, during binge-eating disorder, a person has the tendency to overeat food especially rich in fat and sugar content. This results in deposition of bad cholesterol in our arteries and blood vessels, obstruction of blood flow, coronary artery disease and strokes. Lack of electrolytes in the body also increases the risk of developing hypertension and renal disorders due to the imbalance caused by deficiencies.
2. Effect on Gastro-Intestinal System - Eating disorders have an unfavourable effect on our gastrointestinal health. They reduce our metabolic rate and hinders nutrient absorption rate. Some of the other issues are abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, vomiting, altered blood sugar levels, bacterial infections, ulcers, blocked intestines. If left untreated, these conditions might complicate disorders like gastro-oesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut. Malnutrition and purging both can cause pancreatitis. Another serious condition which is commonly observed among people with eating disorders are bezoar in which indigestible portion of food is found in their intestines, stomach or oesophagus. Perforations and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract is another peril linked with eating disorders.
3. Effect on Endocrine System - Eating disorders also result in hormonal imbalance and altered functioning. Increased insulin resistance is commonly observed making us prone to type 2 diabetes. Low levels of sex hormones might cause infertility, PCOS, osteoporosis, irregular or loss of menstrual cycle and hypothyroidism. Our entire energy metabolism gets affected leading to low body temperature or hypothermia.
4. Effect on Neurological System - Eating disorders are a threat to our brain health. Low energy levels and reduced blood flow deprives our brain of nutrients required to function appropriately a person might feel difficulty in concentrating, learning and memorising. Entire sleep cycle gets affected leading to insomnia and sleep apnea. Insufficient amounts of good fats in the body also damages our myelin sheath and functioning of neurons. In addition, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance also amplify the risk of seizures, coma or death.
To sum up, eating disorders can have seriously damaging effects on our health. They can disrupt the entire body’s processes. Apart from above-listed issues, other symptoms can be hair fall, dry scaly skin, brittle nails, lethargy, anaemia, shortness of breath, fatigue and poor immune health. Eating disorders should never be ignored and immediate expert assistance or counselling is the key to treat or prevent these.