Do You Know Nutrition: Chemical imbalance may be cause of some bulimia

May 24, 2011 at 12:24 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

By Phylis Canion

I am very sad to learn that my niece has been diagnosed with an eating disorder called bulimia. I am not very knowledgeable about this disorder and do not have a computer to research it. The family is very embarrassed, so any information you can share with me as a nutritionist, would be most appreciated.

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of uncontrolled binge eating, quite frequently involving large amounts of high-calorie foods, followed by induced vomiting or the use of laxatives to purge the body of the food just eaten.

This process is usually done in secrecy. James F. Balch, M.D., states that bulimia can lead to ulcers, internal bleeding, hypoglycemia, a ruptured stomach, kidney damage, erratic heartbeat, cessation of menstrual cycle, low pulse rate and low blood pressure.

In addition, the stomach acid produced by frequent vomiting often causes tooth decay and a chronic sore throat.

Episodes of bingeing and purging are quite often associated with a stressful event. Although health care professionals used to believe that bulimia was solely psychological in nature, it is now understood that chemical imbalances and the accompanying nutritional deficiencies may be the leading cause of an eating disorder.

It is important to be aware of stressful situations, and try to avoid them when possible, encourage healthier behaviors and eat a well-balanced healthier diet.

It is most important to listen to your body's needs, and avoid processed foods, junk foods, sodas and diet or lite foods. Eliminate completely refined sugars (i.e. cookies, cakes, candy, etc.), caffeine and alcohol.

Do not forget your water and an excellent whole food daily multivitamin is essential, since the bulimic syndrome results in extreme vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

I usually do a fast for three days about two to three times a year. Do you think that is too frequent or not enough? Any guidelines you could suggest to make a fast more effective would be greatly appreciated. As I age, I find a fast most beneficial; I just want to be sure I am not overdoing a good thing.

The primary way in which a fast is beneficial is by simply giving the body time to rest the digesting organs from digesting food and is recommend with each change of the seasons.

An enormous amount of energy is required for digestion, especially since our diet is so over processed, and we do such a poor job at chewing our food.

A day or so prior to the fast, it is best to eat easily digested foods, such as salads, fresh soups, fruits and decaffeinated herbal teas. I recommend a day or two of fruit smoothies, fruit juices and decaffeinated herbal teas rather than no food at all and no more than three days.

Once again, you can re-introduce the light, easily digested foods before you incorporate the heavier foods. Water is very important and will help with the detoxification process. To maximize the fast, rest is important, exercise should be light and mental activities limited.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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