What are the effects of anorexia and bulimia on the body's systems?

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ncchemist eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Anorexia and bulimia are both serious psychological eating disorders that are statistically most likely to be experienced by younger women.  Anorexia nervosa is a phsychological disorder that gives people an irrational fear of even the slightest weight gain and a very distorted self body image.  This has serious effects on the body.  The most obvious is major weight loss leading to an abnormally thin body frame.  Ironically, the stomach can actually appear to be distended (bulging or protruding) because the body mass surrounding it has receded in becoming so thin.  Thinning and unhealthy hair, swollen joints, missed menstrual cycles, and fatigue also accompany the disease.  Without any food sugars in the bloodstream to process for energy, the body targets fatty acids to metabolize to produce ketone bodies.  This leads to acetone (a common ketone) being exhaled from the body and the breath smelling mildly of nail polish remover.  If anorexic symptoms are experienced by adolescents, stunted growth, reduced bone mass, and the delay of puberty can also happen.

Bulimia nervosa is similar to anorexia in that it is characterized by excessive weight loss and a distorted body image.  But whereas anorexics tend to be obsessed with not eating, bulimics tend to binge eat and then immediately purge it from their bodies by inducing vomiting or using laxatives.  The effects on the body are similar to anorexia as discussed above.  In addition, the stomach acid from excessive vomiting can damage teeth and gums, and the constant purging of food can damage the stomach (ulcers), intestinal tract, and throat lining.

Suffice it to say that both diseases are serious and people suffering from them should receive serious medical and emotional help.