Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of binge eating, followed by compulsive efforts to avoid gaining weight. Bulimia involves physically eliminating the food from your body by throwing up or using laxatives, enemas, or diuretics. Binging and vomiting can trigger waves of the potent brain chemicals called endorphins. The release of these natural heroin-like brain chemicals helps establish the powerful compulsions that bulimics experience to binge and purge. Studies also show that brain chemicals particularly serotonin play an important role in affecting mood, self-esteem, stress, weight management and appetite control. Tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein along with other important vitamin and mineral cofactors, such as B-6 and magnesium are needed to produce optimal levels of serotonin. Low tryptophan levels have been linked as a possible contributing factor to bulimia. In one study, bulimics were deprived of the single protein tryptophan. In reaction, their serotonin levels dropped and they binged more violently, ingesting and purging an average of 900 calories more each day. In another study, adding extra tryptophan to the diet reduced bulimic binges and mood problems by raising serotonin levels. Most recently, an Oxford researcher, Katherine Smith, reported that even years into recovery, bulimics can have a return of their cravings and mood problem after only a few hours of tryptophan depletion. She concluded, “Our findings support suggestions that chronic depletion of plasma tryptophan may be one of the mechanisms whereby persistent dieting can lead to the development of eating disorders in vulnerable individuals.”
From a naturopathic perspective, the physiological triggers for bulimia can be assessed by checking neurotransmitter levels, cortisol and adrenal function, thyroid function, genetic health, and nutrient and amino acid status. Bulimia can be addressed with clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, lifestyle and dietary counseling, meditation and stress reduction exercises along with acupuncture to balance brain chemicals, optimize endocrine function, support self-esteem, reduce stress, and calm the nervous system to prevent reflexive binging. We work integratively with physicians, nutritionists, and therapists to break the binge-purge cycle by helping you monitor your eating habits, avoid situations that trigger binges, cope with stress in ways that don’t involve food, eat healthy and regularly to reduce food cravings, and fight the urge to purge. In addition, we help you identify and change unhealthy thoughts and dysfunctional beliefs patterns about weight, dieting, and body shape. You explore attitudes about eating and rethink the idea that self-worth is based on weight. Finally we support your exploration into identifying and resolving the emotional issues that contributed to the eating disorder. Guidance from a therapist and/or a spiritual counselor to help heal relationship issues, underlying anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation and loneliness are essential.
Unnecessary weight gain can be stressful for many patients and is commonly due to stress, poor eating habits and physical inactivity. Weight gain can be categorized as a weight increase over one’s average body mass index margin. Aside from an unhealthy or sedentary lifestyle, there are many causes of weight gain such as high cortisol levels, abnormal leptin and ghrelin hormones that affect hunger and satiety, low thyroid function, imbalanced serotonin, medication side effects, hormonal changes in menopause, poor digestive function, food sensitivities, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes that can be identified and addressed for effective weight loss. We offer laboratory testing to help identify the root causes of weight gain, measure your waist and body circumference, and provide body composition testing to assess and monitor your body mass index, lean body mass and fat mass levels.
A successful program for weight loss may include a customized dietary plan that is balanced in healthy fats, protein and complex carbohydrates, adequate exercise, a positive mental attitude, stress reduction, acupuncture, B-vitamin injections and supplementation with nutrients and herbs to help promote metabolism and digestion, balance hormones, regulate blood sugar, and normalize appetite. We focus on improving your lean body mass, reducing unhealthy fat mass, and preventing chronic conditions associated with weight gain such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes to help you achieve your weight loss goals.