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Side Effects of Bulimia Nervosa - Hair Loss, Muscles and Bones

Updated on September 22, 2011
Its not easy to see the impact the constant binging and purging has upon the body at first.
Its not easy to see the impact the constant binging and purging has upon the body at first.

Most bulimic behavior stems from a poor body image and an obsession with food and its impact on the body. The very body that is so central to a bulimic’s consciousness is what shows signs of bulimia first. The skin, hair, muscles and bones deteriorating are all side effects of bulimia caused by nutritional imbalances in the diet.

It’s not easy to see the impact the constant binging and purging has upon the body at first. I can confirm first hand that bulimia does eventually ruin your teeth, robs your skin of its youthful glow, weakens your hair and destroys muscle tone.  As a person who wants to share her bulimia recovery story and the effects of bulimia on her life, I want to urge you to understand what bulimia is doing to your body, if nothing else.

Common Physical Effects of Bulimia

Since bulimics overeat and then purge by vomiting, abusing laxatives and over exercise, the digestion system is constantly disrupted. The body doesn’t get the nutrients that it needs to function properly. Anemia, malnourishment, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration are all common fallouts of bulimia.

Impacts on the Muscles – Chemical imbalances in the body mean that the muscles are not getting the energy that they require. The nerves may not convey the impulses from the brain to the muscles properly and the muscles weaken. They lose their tone and they loosen, they may even go into spasm and cramp. You may feel lethargic, may lack energy and even feel some amount of mental confusion.

Impacts on the Teeth – Most bulimics experience some amount of dental deterioration due to the daily vomiting because the stomach acids attack the tooth enamel. Bad breath is also a side effect, although temporary.  Severe dental deterioration can be one of the long lasting effects of bulimia. The family dentist is often the first to identify bulimia because of rapid tooth deterioration.

Impacts on the Hair and Skin - Your skin loses a lot of its healthy glow and vitality, becoming dry, dull and sallow with bulimia.  Hair loss is also common among bulimics because the body doesn’t get the amount of nutrients it needs.  Skin tone and hair growth may be secondary considerations for the body as it senses nutritional scarcity and tries to conserve its resources and use them for more vital body functions.

Impacts on the Skeletal System – Since all the body systems and organs are connected, bulimia will eventually affect the bones, too.  There could be bone loss that could result in the bones becoming porous (the condition called osteoporosis).  This can happen because nutrients are either purged before being digested.  Osteoporosis is more common with anorexia, but not uncommon to bulimics and yet another long-term impact bulimia can have upon the body.  Bulimics won’t know they have osteoporosis until years later and many women in recovery have to take supplements for the rest of their life because their bones have become so brittle and are prone to fractures.

These are but a few of the physical side effects of bulimia.  There are many others, not to mention the effects this addiction has upon the mental and emotional state of the person with bulimia.  Many, if not all, of these conditions can be overcome if bulimia is stopped soon enough.


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