Managing Wellness

Bulimia Health Risks: What You and Your Employees Should Know

  • Bulimia, which includes food binges and purges, is more common among women
  • Bulimia can cause serious health and dental problems
  • Seeking treatment for bulimia is crucial to maintaining your health and smile
Posted by February 25, 2019

The effects of bulimia are serious and there are many details of the disease (such as signs and health risks) that you and your employees should be aware of. Not only does the eating disorder dangerously affect your overall well-being, but it can also take a heavy toll on your smile.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week takes place at the end of February, providing a perfect opportunity to learn more about bulimia health risks, recognize the signs of this eating disorder and discover helpful treatment resources.

What Is Bulimia?

Bulimia is defined by the National Eating Disorder Association as the following behavior: Binge eating (consuming a large volume of food, greater than what most people eat) followed by purging—which includes self-induced vomiting, taking diuretics, misusing laxatives, excessive exercise or fasting—to compensate for the excessive food intake.

To meet the criteria for a bulimia diagnosis, purging occurs at least once per week for a period of three months. People suffering from this eating disorder typically experience a lack of self-control during periods of binge eating.

Eating disorders are more common among women than men. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reports that 1.5 percent of all U.S. women will suffer from bulimia at some point in their lifetime.

Bulimia Health Risks

There are several negative ways that bulimia affects your overall health. The Mayo Clinic suggests bulimia can lead to dehydration, kidney failure associated with dehydration, heart problems, heart failure, irregular periods in women, digestive problems, anxiety and depression. Other complications of bulimia include gum disease and severe tooth decay. That’s why it’s so important to seek treatment if you’re struggling with bulimia. Addressing the issue can help lower your risk for these health complications.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says heart failure can occur due to electrolyte imbalances caused by purging, intestinal damage can result from laxative misuse and throat ulcers may occur in response to regular vomiting. Irregular periods in women caused by bulimia can lead to difficulty getting pregnant. Additionally, vomiting and laxative abuse can cause nutrient deficiencies.

Other complications of bulimia can include gum disease and severe tooth decay. That’s why it is so important to seek treatment if you are struggling with bulimia. Addressing the issue can help lower your risk of these complications.

Bulimia’s Effect on Your Teeth

When you vomit, stomach acid comes in contact with your teeth, which can be detrimental to those pearly whites. The U.K.’s National Centre for Eating Disorders says stomach acid erodes tooth enamel, which can then cause tooth pain, sensitivity, yellowing and decay. You may also be at greater risk for gum disease. Your dentist can help treat gum disease and other dental problems caused by frequent vomiting (such as tooth decay), but tooth enamel lost from erosion doesn’t regenerate. That’s why seeking bulimia treatment early on is so important.

Finding Treatment

Seeking treatment for bulimia is the first step toward better oral and overall health. Ask your doctor about the available treatment options, or where to find structured eating disorder treatment programs in your area.

Bulimia treatment often includes taking antidepressants, receiving psychotherapy (talk therapy or counseling) and participating in nutrition education programs that provide strategies for healthy eating and weight management. Inpatient hospital programs are available for extreme cases of bulimia and other eating disorders.

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