Can Bulimia Cause Kidney Damage?

Can Bulimia Cause Kidney Damage?


Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which people find themselves in a harmful cycle of binge eating sessions followed by purging sessions. During a typical binge eating session, a person will lose control as they eat a significant amount of food over a relatively short time period. A purge session involves attempts to “cancel out” the effects of the previous eating binge; oftentimes, people will purge by forcing themselves to throw up or abusing tools such as enemas, laxatives, or diuretics.


Bulimia and the Kidneys

The kidneys are some of the many organs that can be negatively affected by bulimia. This is because every type of purging behavior can potentially cause dehydration. If someone’s case of dehydration becomes serious, they can experience:

  • Permanent kidney damage
  • Confusion
  • Falling
  • Losing consciousness


Other Physical Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

Other manifestations of bulimia nervosa could include:

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


Emotional Signs and Behaviors Associated with Bulimia Nervosa

There are also many different behaviors and signs that could suggest someone is suffering from bulimia, such as:

  • Evidence of binge eating, such as the presence of many empty containers and wrappers or the disappearance of large amounts of food during a short period of time
  • Evidence of purging, such as the presence of laxatives and diuretics wrappers and packages, signs and/or smells of throwing up, and frequently using the bathroom after eating
  • Withdrawing from usual activities
  • New food practices or fad dieting
  • Frequently looking in the mirror for perceived appearance flaws
  • Creating a schedule to allow time to binge eat and purge
  • Frequent dieting
  • Using excessive amounts of mints, gum, and/or mouthwash
  • Food rituals, such as excessive chewing, not allowing foods to touch, and only eating a type of food or food group
  • Social withdrawal
  • Discomfort eating in front of others
  • Skipping meals 
  • Taking small portions during meals
  • Major mood swings
  • Hoarding food in odd places
  • Maintaining an excessive, inflexible exercise routine
  • Behaviors and attitudes that suggest dieting, weight loss, and food control are a major concern
  • Drinking water or non-caloric beverages in excess
  • Hiding the body by wearing baggy clothing
  • Stealing food
  • Having secret, recurrent binge eating episodes
  • Displaying major concern with one’s shape and body weight


Getting Help

Even though bulimia nervosa can cause serious damage to the body, it is a treatable illness. If you are looking for recovery groups in New York City and elsewhere in the United States, you can find resources at this link. You can also find support by contacting an eating disorder helpline. But if you are in a time of crisis, you can text “NEDA” to 741-741 at any time to be put in contact with someone trained to handle the situation.

Additionally, we are here to help you at Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists. You may contact us via phone (866-525-2766), email, or by filling out our contact form.

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