Eating Disorders and Nutrient Deficiencies: Anorexia, Bulimia
Eating disorders and nutrient deficiencies go hand in hand. But many folks think that the nutrient deficiencies are caused by the eating disorder, especially in the case of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. We believe that genetic, environmental, and epigenetic factors all play a role in the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In our research as well as our practice we have seen a specific pattern in biochemical imbalance especially with the anorexic population. Most of them tend to be undermethylated and severely zinc deficient. There is also an emotional component in the treatment of an eating disorder that is necessary to help retrain thought patterns and emotional triggers. Anorexia and bulimia eating disorders need careful individualized targeted nutrient therapy as well as intense psychotherapy, cognitive, or behavioral therapy to successfully overcome.
Eating Disorders and Nutrient Deficiencies: Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia is associated with the maintenance of low weight and fear of weight gain. At Mensah Medical we know undermethylation is a variable that is highly prevalent in our patient population with this destructive disorder, which is associated with the highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness.
Anorexia affects about 2% of women in their lifetime. Another surprising statistic, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of patients with anorexia or bulimia are male. Between the ages of 15 and 24, suffering from anorexia nervosa means you’re 12 times more likely to die. It’s clearly a serious disorder, but there are many myths about what causes it.
In our clinic we see anorexia as an addiction disorder that manifests itself in undermethylated persons who use food control to master their desire for the perfect body. Nutritive therapy treatment, combined with intense psychotherapy, cognitive, or behavioral therapy typically takes 6 to 9 months for patient recovery, and requires ongoing care to maintain wellness. Anorexic patients are extremely compliant with our protocol, and the prognosis for patients who have used our protocol in conjunction with psychotherapy, cognitive, or behavioral therapy is good.
Anorexia is very often correlated with undermethylation. A lot of females with anorexia, and even a few males, are undermethylated. Perfectionism is directed toward not seeing yourself as perfect enough. It is a form of OCD from a chemical perspective. In general, they are highly driven people, focused on perfectionism, straight “A” students, and very career oriented. Underlying all these characteristics is undermethylation.
Eating Disorders and Nutrient Deficiencies: Bulimia
Binging and vomiting, two classic behaviors in bulimic patients, trigger endorphins that release a feel good sensation in the brain. This euphoric feeling is desired in the patient because they are often fighting a chemical imbalance. When it comes to Bulemia, there is no statistical pattern of one chemical imbalance. Bulimics can have any sort of combined biochemical imbalances. At Mensah Medical we conduct thorough laboratory testing to determine the individual combination of biochemical imbalance that is present in the patient to help balance their chemistry.
Eating Disorders and Nutrient Deficiencies: Basic Facts
In the United States, about 20 million women and 10 million men will suffer a clinically significant eating disorder in their lifetime, and about 50% of them will meet the criteria for depression. Eating disorders and nutrient deficiencies are an epidemic in this country. Eating disorders are six times more prevalent than Alzheimer’s disease and nearly ten times more prevalent than autism. There are many misconceptions as to what causes eating disorders and nutrient deficiencies as well as best treatment modalities. At Mensah Medical we work to provide patients with crucial nutrients that can help restore healthy levels of vital nutrients to restore both mental and physical wellness. Our individualized and targeted nutrient therapies are designed to work in conjunction with other traditional therapies for patients with eating disorders.
Onset of Eating Disorders
In most cases, eating disorders and nutrient deficiencies begin in early adolescence when pressures are put on a child to diet by peers, coaches, cultural mores, or influences in the home. Body dissatisfaction can start as early as age six, and often leads to excessive dieting. Puberty is a dangerous time for dieting because the body is rapidly growing and changing. Adolescents require at least 2,500 calories per day. Anorexic teens will often cut that desired calorie amount in half. As their bodies become deficient in vital nutrients they become hypoglycemic and therefore begin to crave only junk foods high in salt and sugars. This starvation dieting can develop into an eating disorder when their nutrient levels hit the danger zone and begin compromise normal cognitive functioning.
Another factor has to do with epigenetics. The environment can directly impact our genes through the DNA methylation process and this can turn on or off genetic influences which would enable eating disorders to take root. We can successfully reverse common urges in patients with eating disorders by balancing the methylation pathways with nutrients that will naturally help the body to re-balance itself.
Nutrient deficiencies may manifest as symptoms long before the eating disorder surfaces: a loss of appetite, intestinal pain, constipation, chest pain, anxiety, and issues sleeping. As the diet prolongs itself nutrient levels reach dangerous lows and the symptoms of anorexia surface.
An example of one imbalance seen in Anorexia is zinc deficiency, which also causes appetite loss and a lowered sense of taste. It is not surprising that we see a large adolescent population with eating disorders because it is during these years that zinc is vital for the growth, development, and hormonal changes necessary. The supplementation helps patients gain weight and regain their appetite and sense of taste. Please note, that taking zinc alone does not reverse the condition and that toxic levels of zinc can be reached without medical supervision.
Judith Bowman, MD
Judith Bowman, MD, received a B.A. from Illinois Wesleyan University and a medical degree from Finch University of Health Sciences-Chicago Medical School. She is certified and licensed by the American Registry of Radiologic Technology and board certified in Nuclear Medicine Technology after training at Northwestern University’s School of Nuclear Medicine. She learned diagnostic imaging and participated in research and development of radio pharmaceuticals. Dr. Bowman was chief resident in family medicine at Resurrection Hospital in Chicago and was a staff physician for the Illinois Lake County Health Department and Midwest site staff physician at The Dore Achievement Center in Schaumburg, Illinois providing medical services for patients with learning disabilities. Her interest and experience with behavioral/learning issues and autism steadily increased when she joined the medical team at the now closed Pfeiffer Treatment Center in 2005. Dr. Bowman co-founded Mensah Medical in 2008 with her colleague, Albert Mensah, MD.