What Is Anorexia Nervosa?
A lack or loss of appetite for food (as a medical condition)
It is an emotional disorder characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat.
Anorexia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss.
It is a serious, potentially life threatening mental illness.
A person with Anorexia Nervosa has not made a ‘lifestyle choice’, they are actually very unwell and need help.
The reasons behind the development of Anorexia will differ from person to person; known causes include:
- Combination of environmental
- Genetic predisposition
- Social and cultural factors
Restrictive dieting and excessive exercise can be contributing factors to the onset of Anorexia. Women and girls with Anorexia may use dieting behaviour in a bid to achieve a culturally constructed thin ideal whereas men may over exercise and control their diet to achieve a muscular body.
It is commonly accepted that Anorexia is more frequently diagnosed in females across the ages. However, a recent population study has suggested that in adolescents, there are an equal number of males and females suffering from this illness.
It’s characterized by three key features:
- Refusal to maintain a healthy body weight
- An intense fear of gaining weight
- A distorted body image
Anorexia Nervosa Binge /Purging Anorexia
There are two types of anorexia. In the restricting type of anorexia, weight loss is achieved by restricting calories (following drastic diets, fasting, and exercising to excess). In the purging type of anorexia, weight loss is achieved by vomiting or using laxatives and diuretics
Anorexia Nervosa Binge / Purge Type – The individual suffering from Anorexia Nervosa binge / purge type will purge when he or she eats. This is typically a result of the overwhelming feelings of guilt a sufferer would experience in relation to eating; they compensate by vomiting, abusing laxatives, or excessively exercising.
Restrictive Anorexia Nervosa – In this form of Anorexia Nervosa, the individual will fiercely limit the quantity of food consumed, characteristically ingesting a minimal amount that is well below their body’s caloric needs, effectively slowly starving him or herself.
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia is not a simple disorder. It has many symptoms and effects, and its causes are complex as well. Currently, it is thought that Anorexia Nervosa develops as a result of multiple factors, both biological and environmental. Examples of environmental factors that would contribute to the occurrence of Anorexia Nervosa are:
The effects of the thinnessculture in media, that constantly reinforce thin people as ideal stereotypes
- Professions and careers that promote being thin and weight loss, such as ballet and modeling
- Family and childhood traumas: childhood sexual abuse, severe trauma
- Peer pressure among friends and co-workers to be thin or be sexy.
- Irregular hormone functions
- Genetics (the tie between anorexia and one’s genes is still being heavily researched, but we know that genetics is a part of the story).
- Nutritional deficiencies
People with anorexia often go to great lengths to hide their behaviour from family and friends by lying about what they've eaten or pretending to have eaten earlier.
Signs someone may have anorexia or another eating disorder include:
- missing meals, eating very little, or avoiding eating any fatty foods
- obsessively counting calories in food
- leaving the table immediately after eating so they can vomit
- taking appetite suppressants, laxatives, or diuretics (a type of medication that helps remove fluid from the body)
- repeatedly weighing themselves or checking their body in the mirror
- physical problems, such as feeling lightheaded or dizzy, hair loss, or dry skin
Anorexia can also be associated with other psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, alcohol misuse, and self-harm.
- Dramatic weight loss.
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting.
- Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing to restrictions against whole categories of food (e.g. no carbohydrates, etc.).
- Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss.
- Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat.”
- Denial of hunger.
- Development of food rituals (e.g. eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, rearranging food on a plate).
- Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food.
- Excessive, rigid exercise regimen--despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury, the need to “burn off” calories taken in.
- Withdrawal from usual friends and activities.
How to diagnose Anorexia Nervosa
When you see your doctor and he suspects that you have Anorexia Nervosa, he will ask you to do some test to confirm and know which of the anorexia you are battling with.
These exams and tests generally include:
Physical exam: This may include measuring your height and weight; checking your vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and temperature; checking your skin and nails for problems; listening to your heart and lungs; and examining your abdomen.
Laboratory tests: These may include a complete blood count (CBC) and more specialized blood tests to check electrolytes and protein as well as functioning of your liver, kidney and thyroid. A urinalysis also may be done.
Psychological evaluation: A doctor or mental health provider will likely ask about your thoughts, feelings and eating habits. You may also be asked to complete psychological self-assessment questionnaires.
X-rays: X-rays may be taken to check your bone density, check for stress fractures or broken bones, or check for pneumonia or heart problems. Electrocardiograms may be done to look for heart irregularities. Testing may also be done to determine how much energy your body uses, which can help in planning nutritional requirements.
How to Prevent Anorexia Nervosa
There are many ways adults can help children and teens form a healthy view of themselves and learn to approach food and exercise with a positive attitude. Doing this may prevent some children and teens from having this disorder.
Encourage a healthy view of self and others. Teach children to take good care of their bodies. Avoid making comments that link being thin to being popular or beautiful.
Have a healthy approach to food and exercise. Avoid punishing or rewarding your children with food. Be a good role model for healthy eating and exercising.
Treatment for Anorexia Nervosa
The biggest challenge in treating Anorexia Nervosa is helping the person recognize that he or she has an illness. Most people with anorexia deny that they have an eating disorder. People often enter treatment only when their condition is serious.
Goals of treatment are to restore normal body weight and eating habits. A weight gain of 1 to 3 pounds per week is considered a safe goal.
Different programs have been designed to treat anorexia. Sometimes the person can gain weight by: Increasing social activity
- Reducing the amount of physical activity
- Using schedules for eating
- Many patients start with a short hospital stay and follow-up with a day treatment program.
The person has lost a lot of weight (being below 70% of their ideal body weight for their age and height). For severe and life-threatening malnutrition, the person may need to be fed through a vein or stomach tube.
Weight loss continues even with treatment
Medical complications, such as heart problems, confusion, or low potassium levels develop.
Treatment is often very difficult. Patients and their families must work hard. Many therapies may be tried until the patient overcomes this disorder.
Patients may drop out of programs if they have unrealistic hopes of being "cured" with therapy alone.
Different kinds of talk therapy are used to treat people with anorexia:
Cognitive behavioral therapy (a type of talk therapy), group therapy, and family therapy have all been successful.
Goal of therapy is to change patients' thoughts or behavior to encourage them to eat in a healthier way. This kind of therapy is more useful for treating younger patients who have not had anorexia for a long time.
If the patient is young, therapy may involve the whole family. The family is seen as a part of the solution, instead of the cause of the eating disorder.
Support groups may also be a part of treatment. In support groups, patients and families meet and share what they have been through.
Medicines such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers may help some anorexic patients when given as part of a complete treatment program. These medicines can help treat depression or anxiety. Although medicines may help, none has been proven to decrease the desire to lose weight. (nytimes)
Anorexia Nervosa Home Remedies/Home Cure
These home remedies, along with psychological medication, can help in curing anorexia and the symptoms related to it. Some vitally important remedies are as follows:
Apple: Eating an apple a day stimulates surge of a protein-digesting enzymes known as pepsin. This is useful in helping digestion.
Ginger: Ginger is especially recommended for anorexia because it helps to enhance hunger. Ginger taken with rock salt every day works miraculously on an upset stomach and in stimulating the appetite.
Lemon: Lemon works great as a system cleanser. One lemon squeezed in a glass of lukewarm water with a pinch of salt, drunk in the morning, cleanses the system thoroughly. Add some ginger juice to make it more effective. Lemon tones up the system as well, getting the body back to its optimal conditions.
Garlic: Take three to four cloves of garlic a day in any form, including raw garlic, crushed garlic in soup, and garlic boiled in water. Garlic helps treat anorexia, since it cleanses the system and increases hunger. It also helps in the secretion of juices that cleanses the digestive system.
In the initial stages it is better to have orange juice with warm water every morning in an empty stomach. This should be continued in regular intervals throughout the day. Though acidic in nature it is highly alkalizing in the body. Oranges are a rich source of potassium which is one of the reasons for anorexia. The carminative properties in orange stimulate flow of digestive juices, improve digestion and increases
Sour Grapes: You should drink the juice of sour grapes for two purposes, improving appetite and boosting digestive heath. Remember to take this continuously every day for at least three weeks to get the most effective results.
Warm Water: Water is the most basic remedy for anorexia. Unless your digestive system is not cleansed, you will not feel hungry and your anorexia will not be cured. Water takes care of that first step. The intake of warm water cleanses the digestive system.
Mint: Mint is natural appetizer, so consume 2 spoonfuls of mint juice in the morning to help increase your hunger. Within a few days of taking mint juice, you will see a marked change in your eating habits and you will feel more of a craving for food.
Complications of Anorexia Nervosa
In addition to the signs and symptoms of anorexia listed above, you may also notice significant changes in their health and physical functioning.In Anorexia Nervosa’s cycle of self-starvation, the body is denied the essential nutrients it needs to function normally. The body is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy, resulting in serious acute and long-term medical consequences including:
- Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure
- Damage to the structure and function of the heart; increased risk of heart failure and death
- Reduction of bone density (osteopenia and osteoporosis) which results in dry, brittle bones
- Muscle loss and weakness
- Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
- Edema (swelling)
- Fainting, fatigue, lethargy and overall weakness
- Dry skin and hair, brittle hair and nails, hair loss
- Anemia (can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, increased infections, and heart palpitations)
- Severe constipation
- Prepubertal patients may have arrested sexual maturity and growth failure.
- Drop in internal body temperature, with subsequent growth of a downy layer of hair called “lanugo,” which is the body’s effort to keep itself warm
- Amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle)
- Infertility, increased rates of miscarriage and other fetal complications