Bulimia and Anemia

Bulimia and Anemia

According to The National Eating Disorders Association, about 20 million American women and 10 million American men will experience some form of an eating disorder at some point over the course of their lifetimes. Eating disorders can cause physical and mental harm, and may sometimes even be life-threatening. 

There are many myths surrounding eating disorders and especially who develops them. However, it is essential to acknowledge that anyone can develop an eating disorder regardless of their background. Furthermore, every recovery journey from an eating disorder looks different; no two treatment plans will necessarily look alike. 

Bulimia Nervosa

The National Eating Disorders Association says that bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder in which people engage in a harmful cycle that involves:

  • Binge eating, in which someone consumes a large amount of food over a short period of time while feeling out of control
  • And purging, a compensatory act in which someone tries to “undo” the effects of a binge eating episode through behaviors such as self-induced vomiting and misusing tools like enemas, laxatives, and diuretics

Physical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa can have a profound effect on the entire body. One such way that it can manifest is in the presence of abnormal blood work findings, such as:

  • Anemia (a temporary to long term, mild to severe blood condition in which someone does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry enough oxygen throughout the body)
  • Otherwise low blood counts
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Low potassium
  • Low hormone levels

Other physical symptoms of bulimia nervosa might include:

  • Swelling around the salivary glands
  • Lanugo, or fine hair all over the body
  • Other non-specific gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux or constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Impaired immune system functioning
  • Constantly feeling cold
  • Dizziness
  • fainting/syncope
  • Thinning of hair on the head
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Dry, brittle nails
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bloating from fluid retention
  • Stomach cramps
  • Yellow skin from eating lots of carrots
  • Noticeable weight fluctuations
  • Sleep issues
  • Cold, mottled hands and feet
  • Swollen feet
  • Poor healing of wounds
  • Dental issues, such as enamel erosion, tooth sensitivity, cavities, and discoloration
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Cuts and/or calluses across the tops of finger joints from induced vomiting

Finding Help

It is incredibly important to seek help if you are living with bulimia nervosa, as the dangerous cycle of binge eating and purging could lead to sudden death from complications such as cardiac failure and electrolyte imbalances. And even if someone is at a high risk of passing away, laboratory tests could still yield “normal” results. 

If you or someone you love is experiencing an eating disorder, you may wish to contact an eating disorder helpline. And while eating disorders are indeed severe illnesses, they are also, thankfully, treatable; you can find assistance with finding eating disorder treatment in the United States here. If you find yourself in a crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 at any time to be put in touch with a properly trained individual. Additionally, we are here to help you at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You can reach us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

Scroll to Top