Eating disorders are plaguing the world today. People are obsessing over body image so immensely that many are turning to excessive eating disorders in an attempt to solve their emotional unbalance. Anorexia Nervosa is one of these fatal illnesses. This disorder can be distinguished by immoderate exercise and fear of gaining weight, which most often leads to extreme weight loss. The physical effects of Anorexia Nervosa can be detrimental to a person’s health and cause many problems in bodily functions presently and in the future.
Osteopenia is one of the negative outcomes Anorexia Nervosa can have on an individual’s health. This occurs when the body is malnourished and cannot produce bone as quickly, therefore, causing a deficiency in bone mass. Bones store the majority of calcium intake, therefore, bone strength is decreased when the body is not receiving enough of this nutrient. If a person’s diet is calcium deficient, bones will be robbed of calcium to maintain normal blood levels for vital functions, said Meghan Slattery, Eating Disorders Catalog (2018). This can lead to a decline in mineralization and bone loss.
Bone loss can also be largely affected by hormones, especially estrogen. The body responds to a starved state by conserving resources when possible, e.g. limiting reproduction by minimizing production of estrogen and of certain hormones that regulate ovarian production of estrogen (2018). This causes minimal or sporadic menstrual cycles and bone loss. Bone formation is another part of bone density that is largely stimulated by another nutritionally regulated hormone, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) (2018). When the body is being repressed from the necessary nutrients it needs, bone density is reduced dramatically.
In an article from Oxford Academic, Pouneh K Fazeli and Anne Klibanski state that, alterations in the rate of bone formation during adolescence may have lifelong impact with respect to bone structure and fragility (2018). Not giving the body the nourishment it needs now, will make bones more delicate and open to possibilities of being fractured in the future.
The heart needs nutrients to continue pumping blood through the body. Depriving the body of these nutrients forces the body to slow down to conserve energy because the heart specifically becomes smaller and weaker, making it more difficult to circulate blood at a healthy rate (Northwestern Medicine, 2018). One result of this is bradycardia, an exceedingly low heart rate caused by weak heart muscles unable to pump blood through the rest of the body. Pumping in the heart also becomes difficult when the muscles in the heart start to decay, becoming thin and fatigued. This can lead to low blood pressure, which the body is unable to counteract by constrict[ing] blood levels to raise blood pressure (2018). Fainting and decompensation in the heart are also results of Anorexia Nervosa (University of Rochester Medical Center, 2018). Northwestern Medicine concluded that heart damage is the most common reason for hospitalization in people with this form of disordered eating (2018). The effects Anorexia Nervosa has on the heart can be virulent and life threatening.
Gastroparesis is an effect Anorexia Nervosa can have on the stomach. This occurs when the muscles in the stomach shrink down and are weakened. Because of this, they are no longer able to receive the signals the nerves send to process food. When overcoming this eating disorder, the stomach will sometimes experience detainment when attempting to empty the stomach. If extended over a long period of time, the food will then become fermented in the stomach causing bacterial problems. Food can also harden in the stomach, forming solid lumps known as bezoars, which themselves can cause stomach pain and vomiting Beth Morrisey, Eating Disorder Expert, states (2018). Bezoars, depending on the size and placement in the stomach, can easily be removed by being dissolved chemically. Others, however, need endoscopic removal or surgery (Raghav Bansal, Merck Manual, 2018).
The stomach can also obtain ulcers. This happens when there is no food to protect the stomach walls from stomach acids, and a hard, swollen distended stomach can result from both bacterial infections and ulcers (Beth Morrisey, Eating Disorder Expert, 2018). Ulcers cause severe stomach discomfort that is not fatal, but quite painful. Another effect of Anorexia Nervosa is stomach contraction. This causes the stomach to feel fuller faster and to not accommodate normal amounts of food until they are gently stretched’ with slightly larger snacks and meals (2018). This can be overcome, but only after a long period of time.
Lastly, kidneys are affected by Anorexia Nervosa. Kidneys are in charge of a vital function: to purify and clear out toxins in the body. In order to do this process, water and electrolytes are necessary. When a person is dealing with Anorexia Nervosa, they are dehydrating, and, therefore, injuring their kidneys, making them shut down and unable to perform correctly. Without water and electrolytes, serious toxemia will occur when the toxins enter the bloodstream. Ben Mahoney, Center for Discovery, states that, Dark urine and decreased urinary output are two warning signs of kidney failure (2017). Anorexia Nervosa can impact the health of kidneys and how well they function in the body.
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