What is bulimia nervosa? | Symptoms & Treatment | Nutrition

bulimia nervosa

What is bulimia nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa is a psychological eating disorder in which you have binge-eating episodes (consuming a large amount of food in one sitting). During these binges, you don’t have any sense of control over your eating.

Then try inappropriate ways to lose weight like:

  • Vomiting
  • Fasting
  • Enemas
  • Excessive use of laxatives and diuretics.
  • Compulsive exercise

Bulimia, also called bulimia nervosa, tends to flinch in late childhood or early maturity. He often binges and purges in secret. You feel disgusted and embarrassed when you binge and relieved once you purge.

People with bulimia often weigh within the normal range for their age and height. But they may fear gaining weight, want to lose weight, and feel very displeased with their bodies.

What are the symptoms of bulimia nervosa?

The most common symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Fear of long-term weight gain
  • Comments about being fat
  • Worry about weight and body
  • A strongly negative self-image
  • Binge
  • Strong vomiting
  • Overuse of laxatives or diuretics
  • Use of complements or herbs for weight loss
  • Excessive exercise
  • Stained teeth (from stomach acid)
  • Calluses on the back of the hands
  • Go to the bathroom immediately after meals
  • Do not eat in front of others
  • Withdrawal from normal social activities

Complications of bulimia nervosa

  • Renal insufficiency
  • Heart problems
  • Gum disease
  • Dental caries
  • Digestive problems or constipation
  • Dehydration
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Electrolyte or chemical imbalances

Women may experience the nonappearance of a menstrual period. Also, anxiety, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse can be communal in people with bulimia.

What causes bulimia nervosa?

Researchers are not sure what exactly causes bulimia and other eating disorders. Researchers believe that eating disorders can occur due to a combination of a person’s biology and life events. This combination includes having specific genes, a person’s biology, body image and self-esteem, social experiences, family health history, and sometimes other mental health conditions.

Researchers are also studying unusual activity in the brain, such as changes in levels of serotonin or other chemicals, to see how it can affect diet.

How is bulimia treat?

Treatment is long term. Ideally, it combines psychotherapy, family therapy, nutritional counselling, and medication.

It is essential that the patient accepts their need for treatment and agrees to cooperate and participate. Some patients are resistant to treatment, while others may fluctuate in their adherence. Stressful life events can trigger relapses.

Behavioural and cognitive therapy can help patients:

Understand why they have the disorder and what feelings, behaviours, and thoughts contribute to it.

Change your perception of appearance, body weight, food, and eating

Support from family and friends is key to effective and long-term positive results.

The patient’s family must understand what bulimia nervosa is and quickly identify its signs and symptoms. Family therapy can help in the healing process.

Interpersonal therapy focuses on social roles and relationships. Patients learn new ways to handle conflicts with friends or family and to improve these relationships.

Medicines can help with depression. Fluoxetine, also known as Prozac, is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in bulimia nervosa.

Nutritional counselling can help break the cycle of binge eating and compensation. Patients learn to structure and control the rhythm of their meals and to set calorie goals that suit their needs.

Hospitalization is rarely necessary if there is a risk of suicide or self-harm.

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM) suggests that the following complimentary treatments may help:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, and drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
  • Take supplemental vitamins and minerals, after consulting with a doctor.
  • Using herbs that improve overall health, such as holy basil and catnip
  • Massage to reduce stress
  • Any balancing therapy should first be discussed with the doctor.

How is bulimia diagnosed?

You are likely to keep your binges and purges a secret. This is so family, friends, and healthcare providers won’t find out. If you seek help from a health expert for bulimia, he or she will want to collect a full history of your behaviours from you, your family, parents, and others. Sometimes psychological tests are done. Blood tests may be done to check your general health and nutrition.

Early treatment can often prevent future problems. Bulimia and the resulting malnutrition can affect almost every organ system in the body. Bulimia can be deadly. If you suspect bulimia, speak with a healthcare provider to learn more.

Risk factors

Girls and women are more probable to have bulimia than boys and men. Bulimia often starts in the late teens or early adulthood.

Factors that increase your risk for bulimia may include:

  • Biology. Persons with first-degree relatives (siblings, parents, or children) with an eating disorder may be more likely to grow an eating disorder, suggesting a possible genetic link. Being overweight as a child or teenager can increase your risk.
  • Psychological and emotional problems. Psychological and emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or substance use disorders, are closely related to eating disorders. People with bulimia can have negative feelings about themselves. In some cases, traumatic events and environmental stress can be contributing factors.
  • Dieting. Dieters are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders. Many people with bulimia severely restrict calories between binging episodes, which can trigger the urge to binge again and then purge. Other triggers for binge eating can include stress, poor body image, food, and boredom.


Bulimia nervosa can cause numerous thoughtful and even life-threatening complications. Possible complications include:

  • Undesirable self-esteem and problems with affairs and social functioning.
  • Dehydration, which can lead to serious medical problems, such as kidney failure
  • Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat or heart letdown.
  • Severe tooth decay and gum disease
  • Missing or irregular periods in women
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety, depression, personality disorders, or bipolar disorder.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or suicide


Although there is no sure way to prevent bulimia, you can direct someone to healthier behaviour or professional treatment before the situation worsens. Here’s how you can help:

  • Promote and reinforce a healthy body image in your children, regardless of their size or shape. Help them develop confidence in ways other than their appearance. Have nice and regular family meals.
  • Avoid talking about weight at home. Instead, focus on having a healthy lifestyle.
  • Discourage dieting, especially when it comes to unhealthy weight management behaviours, such as fasting, using supplements or laxatives for weight loss, or self-induced vomiting.
  • Talk to your primary care provider. He or she may be in a good position to classify early indicators of an eating disorder and help prevent its growth.
  • If you notice that a family member or friend seems to have eating problems that could lead to or indicate an eating disorder, consider talking to the person about these problems and asking how they can help.
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