After consuming a meal, a person with bulimia quickly tries to purge the food. But sometimes quick fixes can leave long-term damage. What seems like a fast, harmless remedy at the time can harm internal systems over time. Bulimia is a mental illness that can also harm the body, including the teeth, throat, stomach and colon.
Individuals with bulimia frequently use laxatives or diuretics, or make themselves vomit to purge their body of food. Over time, this mental illness can cause multiple physical problems that may last a lifetime. Treatment and management of bulimia is essential to help these individuals protect their body from future harm.
Damage to the Colon
Bulimia can have a profound effect on the colon. Repeatedly using laxatives and diuretics disrupts the normal function of the bowels and makes it difficult for the intestines to regain normal functioning long after a person stops using that purging method. Some people develop a dangerous dependency on the laxatives, and stopping their use puts the body at risk of dysfunction and infection that may require colon surgery.
Trying to self-manage the body systems can have dangerous consequences. Each internal system works as it has for generations, sending the same complex signals to other body systems to keep the body functioning properly. When individuals take control of how and when these internal systems work, by using laxatives and diuretics, the body tries to adjust. But if individuals keep interfering with their insides, the body eventually gives up and shuts down its internal workers. Misusing diuretics can upset the electrolytes in the body or cause edema, a building up of fluids in the body.
Damage to the Mouth and Throat
While the abuse of laxatives and diuretics can damage the colon, repeated vomiting can damage the mouth and throat. The teeth, salivary glands and esophagus can all be harmed by actions of someone with bulimia:
- Tooth decay: Stomach acid that repeatedly washes over the teeth can eventually wear away protective tooth enamel. Without this protective layer, teeth are more vulnerable to cavities and are more sensitive to the stinging pain of things that are too hot or too cold.
- Swollen salivary glands: Frequent vomiting can swell and bruise the salivary glands.
- Damaged esophagus: Frequent vomiting can rupture the esophagus, cause strictures and produce ulcers.
Getting Help Before the Damage Is Done
The key to avoiding the long-term effects of bulimia is helping an individual find treatment as soon as possible. The earlier the habitual purging practices cease, the less damage they do to the internal systems of the body. There is treatment for mental illness, and treating the mind will help treat the entire body.