Bulimia nervosa is a disease that requires both medical treatment and so much care from a mental health professional and the sufferer’s loved ones. It can be caused by a wide array of factors. These include but are not limited to genetics, trauma, stress, mental disorders, personality, or even cognitive distortions caused by society’s unrealistic standards of beauty. This is why if anyone is suffering, intervention is a must—because everyone deserves hope and healing.

It goes without saying, but purposefully trying to throw up to lose weight can cause so much strain on one’s physical health. Here are some long-term effects of chronic self-induced vomiting.

Dental problems

Because throwing up produces so much acid, chronic vomiting can cause teeth erosion. The high acid content of vomit can cause not just something as surface-level as tooth sensitivity but also tooth decay, which can then cause loss of teeth. Thankfully, dental implants can always solve missing teeth, especially when the patient doesn’t want to get crowns, dentures, or bridges. This means anyone who lost teeth due to this disease can always get their radiant smiles back.

A toll on the body

Because the cycle of overeating and forceful purging is unnatural, it can eventually take a toll on the body’s digestive system. Vomiting is a violent act and one that demands so much from the body, and it can bring so much physical weakness and fatigue. Chronic vomiting can cause stomach pain and sore throat, but as time goes on, it can also add so much more serious symptoms like the following:

  • Torn esophagus
  • Ruptured esophagus, which can then cause the appearance of blood in the vomit
  • Stomach irritation
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Damage in the intestines
  • Constipation, bloating, or diarrhea

And since the most common way of purposefully throwing up is putting a finger down one’s throat, the knuckles can come in contact with the incisors, which can then cause acidity scars on the hands and fingers. This symptom is called Russell’s sign.

Another common way that people try to eliminate excess calories from the food they consume is by taking diet pills, diuretics, or laxatives. Overusing these pills or products can train the body not to have bowel movements without using them, and hemorrhoids can also occur if bowel movements are over-strained.

person vomitting

Hormonal imbalance

One of the lesser talked about long-term effects of bulimia in the body is the hormones going off balance. This is because when people hurl, they don’t just get rid of excess calories. They also remove the nutritional benefits of the food they consume. Here are some ways self-induced vomiting can cause a hormonal imbalance:

  • Fatigue due to constant hurling can negatively affect one’s sex drive.
  • The menstrual cycle can also be disrupted for a few cycles and even for good. When the ovaries stop producing eggs, getting pregnant may be more difficult.

Pregnant women, in particular, can potentially face the following complications if they struggle with binge eating then purging:

  • Hal high blood pressure
  • Postpartum depression
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Difficulties with breastfeeding
  • Stillbirth
  • Miscarriage
  • Birth defects
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Breech birth
  • Going through cesarean delivery

Effects on hair, skin, and nails

Because frequent vomiting can cause dehydration, the person’s skin may become dry, rough, and scaly, while their nails become brittle. The person also has a higher risk of experiencing hair loss or, at the very least, having their hair become frizzy and dry.

Help Is Available

If someone you know might be suffering from bulimia, here are some practical tips to extend love and help:

  • Express patience and support. Don’t give up even if your loved one shuts you down in the beginning.
  • Do not give ultimatums. Unless you’re helping a minor, you have no legal authority to force someone to go into treatment. Moreover, ultimatums only breed more secrecy, denial, and pressure.
  • Avoid being reductive in your solutions or providing simple solutions. It’s not just about loving themselves or their bodies more. If it were that easy, your loved one would have been healed a long time ago.
  • The best thing you can do for them is to encourage treatment. Tell them that there is a way out of it and the road may be hard, but that you have their back along the way and that they are not alone in their journey to healing.

No one wakes up one day and chooses to have this disorder. Have compassion for people who are suffering, extend practical help, and trust that there are medical experts and mental health professionals who can partner with you in helping your loved one get through this.