“When she was fourteen, a modeling agency said that her face was too fat. It was a death sentence.
” (Toronto Sun, 1994)Sheena Carpenter died in November 1993. She was found on the kitchenfloor of her apartment by her mother. She was twenty-two years old. . .
andweighed only fifty pounds. Sheena was just one of the alarming numbers of youngwomen who become obsessed with the shape and size of their bodies, and sufferharmful, or in this case, fatal effects from eating disorders. At any given time,almost one out of every two women is on some sort of a diet, and this statisticis apparently reflected the revenues of the diet industry, currently a $33billion a year industry. It should be noted that this estimate does not includeprofits generated by exercise or workout programs, gyms, health clubs, orcosmetic surgery.
A recent national survey in the US reveled that the majority of women,when asked what would make them happiest, choose thinness over all other choices,even such thing as job promotion, romance, prestige and power. In fact, morewomen feared becoming fat, then feared dying. These statistics revel an alarmingsocial problem that is reaching epic proportions. Although the topic of eating disorders has gained a larger audiencewithin the last decade, the number of cases of eating disorders continues torise at a resounding rate.
Today many scientists are looking into possiblecauses for the onset of an eating disorder. The most prevalent and influencingfactor is the media and society’s view. They act as a controlling presence forsusceptible individuals. The socioculture pressure on today’s adolescent andyoung women to be thin and attractive also play an important role in thedevelopment of eating disorders.
Thinness in today’s society is associated withself-control, attractiveness, intelligence, happiness , wealth and success. Themedia, fashion, and the diet industry exploit this myth by bombarding us withproducts and services designed to push us towards losing weight. As a result, itis not surprising to find that adolescents who are undergoing uncontrollablebody changes and the onset of new emotional and sexual drives seek dieting inorder to enhance their sense of self-control and acceptance by others. Recently it has been discovered that a possible cause for eatingdisorders is due to an defective hormone. That hormone serotonin, said toactivate in response to food, is still a mystery and even though it has somevalue as a blood clotting factor, but its functions have yet to be totallyunderstood. At the current speed of progress however, it has been said that weshould expect definite information as to the cause of an eating disorder inabout a decade.
Following soon after will be a better form of treatment to helpall who have become effected by this dreadful disorder. Both Anorexia and Bulimia have effects and differences on thebody that causes the body to take drastic measures to sustain the life of theindividual. (for the sake of brevity and to avoid redundancy the abbreviation EDwill be used in pace of eating disorder)The lack of any digested food to become a useful ingredient to the bodyhas detrimental effects to the body as a whole. With each disorder, Anorexia andBulimia Nervosa, you will see how each contributes to this problem. A variety of changes in thought and perception accompany AnorexiaNervosa. Notable behavioral changes, however, center around food.
Theindividual with anorexia often divides her foods into good and badcategories. Good foods are hypocaloric which includes fruits and vegetables,while bad foods are hypercaloric, such as carbohydrates and sweets. Thehypocaloric foods are eaten while hypercaloric foods are avoided. Mealtimes areusually skipped or small amounts of foods may be eaten, leading to low dailycalorie intake levels. To an anorexic, every act of eating may be governed byrules such as cutting the food into small pieces, taking hours to eat, orhoarding food. This person also becomes obsessed with exercise in yet anotherattempt to lose weight.
Physically, the disorder causes the body to slowlydeteriorate. Obvious signs to look for are excessive weight loss in a shortperiod of time and continuing dieting of a bone thin person. The body, in itsamazing capabilities, begins to protect itself by shutting down non-lifesustaining processes. The heart rate and blood pressure slow, very fine hairscalled lanugo grow on the body to prevent loss of body heat, and the skinbecomes dry and yellow. The master gland, the thyroid, slows, which in turnslows development.
Amenorrhea begins, stopping the menstrual cycle in women. Dueto nutrient restriction and electrolyte imbalance, the heart and kidneys becomeseverely damaged and the brain may even shrink causing drastic personalitychanges. Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by frequent binge eating, which isfollowed by some form of compensative behavior, whether it be self-inducedvomiting, laxatives, or compulsive exercise. Unlike anorexics who are usually ina state of self denial, bulimics are fully aware of their illness andconsciously try to hide it from others.
This deception allows the bulimic tocarry on for many years without anyone ever knowing. However, the hungersensation is overwhelmingly strong and the individual gives in, devouring largeamounts of food each time. Then guilt and compensatory behaviors follow, suchas vomiting or laxative use. Because bulimics only lose the food they’ve justeaten, they do not drastically lose weight, but fluctuate instead. The bodystill tries to preserve life and discontinues non-life sustaining processes aswell. Many experience signs common to an anorexic such as obsessive exercise,which could led to heavy involvement in sports.
Loss of menstrual periods, andfeeling fat are also common signs of bulimia. Bulimics still eat but purgingstarves their bodies of much needed nutrients. This action can lead to heart andkidney damage due to lack of potassium. Purging can also cause the stomach walland esophagus to rupture, as well as tooth decay due to the acidity of thestomach. ED’s have their similarities and differences as can be shown, but insidethe body the both cause virtually the same chemical responses. Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa are two disorders unlike any other disorder,sickness, or disease.
The eating disorders such as these two strike in avulnerable division in the body. The body is sustained by the food we eat andthe liquids we drink, take those away or out of their homeostatic state and thebody suffers greatly. Although the body is amazing in its capabilities to dealwith life functions and changes within, without the proper nutrients, the bodyis unable to do its job. This is why the disorder is so terrible. The body isunable and incapable without this food to repair itself, provide the means fororgans to work, or to sustain life processes.
With the limitation of food intake,mineral levels fall towards dangerous levels. As a result vitamins don not workand then food can’t be digested and a whole cascade of dangerous effects follow. Minerals are used in the body not a source of food but rather as a aidto other body nutrients. They increase the ability of a nutrient to function andstrengthen its effectiveness. With the decrease in food and energy from food, a fluid electrolytedisorder called hyponatremia develops where there is not enough sodium in thebody.
Made worse by laxatives (diuretics) and excessive sweating through thecompulsive exercise, low sodium levels trigger the adrenal cortex to releasealdosterone, targeting the kidney tubules. When stimulated, the kidneys raisethe absorption rate of Na+ in the proximal convoluted tubules and the loops ofHenle. It is important to understand that while the sodium content of the bodymay change, its concentration in the extracellular fluid remains stabile becauseof adjustments in water volume. Hyponatremia, when not corrected, causes aneurologic dysfunction due to brain swelling, systemic edemia, decreased waterloss which leads to decreased blood pressure and volume, as well as cardiacarrhythmia and circulatory shock. Physical signs of this electrolyte disorderare headaches, muscle cramps, thirst, lethargy, and weakness. Relating veryclosely to sodium’s role in the body is that of potassium.
“Potassium, the chief intracellular cation, is required for normalneuromuscular functioning, as well as for several essential metabolic activities,including protein synthesis. ” Although potassium can be toxic at high levels,eating disorders cause the level of potassium to fall dramatically lower thannormal causing the same drastic effects. A deficit of potassium can causehyperpolarization and nonresponsiveness of the neurons controlling our body, acondition called hypokalemia. The heart, being the most sensitive to K+, maydevelop cardiac arrhythmia and possible arrest also. Muscular weaknesses,alkalosis of the blood, and hypovenilation may accompany low levels of potassium. The effects of hyponatremia and hypokalemia may not be prevalent at theonset of an eating disorder and may not even show up for quite some time due tothe low levels of other chemicals that hinder, compensate, or account for thedifference.
For example, not enough magnesium (hypomagnesemia) can cause tremorsand increase neuromuscular excitability. A lack of phosphorus causes a conditionknown as rickets, when the epiphyseal plates in young growing children continueto widen and become enlarged. Even a lack in trace minerals like Iron and Iodinecan cause an inability to maintain body temperature and hypothyroidism,respectively. Vitamins are essential for the life-sustaining process in the body to becarried out. Vitamins in the body act as a coenzyme.
They act in junction withother specific enzymes allowing them to function. Without the assistance ofvitamins, all of the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins would not be able to bebroken down and digested and used for energy. Most vitamins are not made in the body and therefore most come from ourdiet, and since no one food contains all of the essential vitamins need for thebody, a balanced diet is necessary. The deficiency of vitamins in the body isprimarily what causes the effects that are visible in an ED patient. Vitamin Adeficiencies cause night blindness (controls pigmentation of rods and cones) andthe drying of the epidermis of the skin. Shown in the dry eyes and chapped lips,coarse hair, and the drying eye conjunctiva and yellowing skin.
Lack of vitaminD causes problems in the skeleton leading to brittleness and easy breakage ofbones. Vitamin K that adds to blood coagulation will cause an increase ofclotting time and bruising. Those are to name the effects of low fat-solublevitamin. The water-soluble vitamins effect the body in yet another way.
VitaminC, labels by many as the health vitamin, is an antioxidant, meaning that it isused to repair the body of damage from free oxygen radicals. Low levelstherefore, let damaged tissue to go unrepaired. Other common problems are aninability to form the intercellular cement, joint pains, bone growth problems,increased susceptibility to infection, and further weight loss. As the vitamin level dwindles, the body becomes less able to properlydigest food into energy.
Carbohydrate, lipids, and proteins that due come intothe body, can’t be broken down properly. The body continually needs energy forbasel and regular metabolic rates. When the food intake no longer provides thatnecessity, the body begins to break down its own resources of stored energy. First to be broken down, is carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates consist ofsugars and is the easiest obtainable and best used energy source. The complexand simple sugars are broken down directly into glucose. Carbohydrates areburned at a fast rate and since the body doesn’t store a lot of it the body nextturns upon the lipid or fat reserves. A large portion of energy is storied in fat however it takes more energyto turn it to a useful substance.
As the body breaks down itself, the loss ofinsulating fat causes loss of body heat and an increased metabolic rate. Asstored fats become depleted and the body has to due work to keep itself together,next the proteins become targeted. Most proteins are located and stored in muscle. The break down ofproteins is really the break down of muscle. Protein digestion is the worst formof energy since it takes a lot of energy to get small amounts of energy.
As shown, one thing that may seam minor and minuet can turn into adangerous situation. Experimentation has proven that the best form of treatmentincludes the use of anti-depressant drugs. In situation where the patient hasbecome critical the individual is often hospitalized and monitored around theclock with close observation on slow recovery of body chemical. The damages tothe body can usually be restored in a relatively short time as compared to theemotional damage that goes on for years. Thankfully most of the physicalproblems with an eating disorder are caused by malnutrition and go back tonormal when normal body weight is restored.Category: Science