Wellbeing with Nutrition
Nurturing the Mind and Body
From 24th February - 2nd March 2014 is Eating Disorders Awareness Week
I am looking at bulimia today and raising awareness of this type of eating disorder.
Later on in the week I will be sharing strategies, which have helped myself and others to overcome eating disorders.
Bulimia eating disorders are characterised by episodes of eating followed by purging.
Like other eating disorders, the triggers for eating/purging are often rooted at a subconscious level.
This eating disorder can go unnoticed by others! A bulimic may seem to be eating food normally and have a normal body weight. However their need to binge and purge is often kept private.
Purging can take the forms of self-induced vomiting, taking laxatives/enemas or diuretics.
There are many health related issues from purging. Teeth and gums start to erode, from the stomach acid brought up by frequent vomiting. The mouth starts to smell. Water and electrolytes levels become imbalanced in the body, which eventually has a negative knock on effect on muscle and nerve functioning. Heart beat can become irregular and pain may present within the body.
Like binge eating, bulimia is not about food but about the cycle of eating and purging being used to ease an inner level of emotional turmoil. Some bulimics may try to 'stuff down' their negative feelings by binge eating whereas for others the binge is necessary to make way for purging which is the means of 'letting go' of stress and tension and 'regaining control'. A feeling of 'high' often follows a binge/purge but this is short-lived and usually triggers the next cycle.
The process of eating and purging is therefore being used to relieve underlying feelings of stress and anxiety!
In traditional Chinese Medicine the emotions of grief and sadness are connected to the large intestines and the lungs. The lungs represent the 'taking in' of life whereas the large intestine represents the 'letting go' of things which are no longer required. Can you see a connection with purging and the large intestine?
The emotions of worry and over-thinking connect to the stomach, spleen and pancreas. On a metaphysical level, the stomach represents how well we nurture, nourish, feel secure and enjoy life. It absorbs our thoughts and mental attitudes about life. The Spleen is said to house our thought processes. If we think too much, (like worrying) then this leads to the spleen becoming energetically weaker. Emotionally the Spleen/Pancreas encourages the enjoyment of life. When the spleen/pancreas become imbalanced, we no longer find life to be sweet, so we substitute large amounts of sugar to compensate for what we are unable to allow in with joy.
These insights from traditional Chinese medicine may be helpful with connecting emotions and mental attitudes with the physical body. They may also flag weaknesses within these organs, which are contributing to imbalanced health.
It is highly likely that the mechanisms for blood sugar management are imbalanced and will be contributing to the need to binge. There may also be issues with digestion and elimination which means that the body feels congested and toxic. This feeling of congestion and toxicity will also strengthen the need to purge.
Mental health issues like eating disorders often manifest during the teens. During puberty, the brain and sexual organs require the presence and correct amounts of essential nutrients. Unfortunately in many teens, the key nutrients required to transition the body to an adult become low and/or deficient. This may be due hectic lifestyles during this stage of life and the many opportunities for stress to manifest. The body instinctively doesn't feel right. If you have lived with teenagers you will know what I am talking about!
The use of stimulants like sugar, alcohol, cigarettes or drugs becomes more attractive as their use helps in part to cope with negative feelings. Behaviours like over-exercising or purging are also ways of achieving a 'high' to correct negative feelings.
By becoming aware of the triggers and irrational thoughts driving this eating disorder, a process can begin to change these thoughts, emotions and behaviours to stop using food and purging as a means of relieving stress. At a physical level, the important steps of re-nurturing the body, correcting blood sugar management, improving digestion, whilst strengthening the elimination pathways will also help to support recovery from this eating disorder.