Anorexia

A potentially dangerous eating disorder. Bulimia (binge eating followed by self-provoked vomiting) is related to this condition.

Anorexia most often affects women under the age of 25. The most characteristic symptoms of an anorexic person is an extreme focusing on weight and an unrealistic apprehension of his/her own appearance. People with anorexia are usually extremely thin. In addition, they have a distorted attitude towards food. This can present itself as compulsive behaviour when dealing with nutritional- and food-related subjects, for example the person may display an exaggerated interest in cooking, while on the other hand starving him-/herself and following an extreme exercise program to burn fat and become even more skinny.

Anorexia is a disease with serious physical and psychological repercussions. The disorder is potentially fatal. Even those which survive risk permanent damage to vital organs.

Possible physical and psychological damage includes:
  • Underweight with wasting of muscles.
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Anaemia and low body temperature
  • Easily feels cold
  • Bluish skin
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Blood sugar imbalance
  • Weakening
  • Difficulty concentrating and learning disabilities
  • Psychological imbalance
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Damage to inner organs
  • Irregular or ceased menstruation
  • Complications during pregnancy or childlessness
  • Hair loss
  • Frayed and broken nails
  • Brittle-bone disease
  • Brain damage
When the intestine does not receive nourishment, the number of beneficial lactic acid bacteria decreases. This can lead to digestion problems once the person begins to eat again.

Anorexia is related to bulimia which is characterized by binge eating of specially selected favourites like pastries, cream éclairs, and potato chips, followed by provoked vomiting. After a while the gastric acid that accompanies the vomited food will cause increasing damage to the oesophagus and dental enamel.

Some patients have symptoms that are exclusively anorexic or bulimic, but many suffer from both diseases at the same time. The disease is often complicated by severe weakening of the physical condition, and nutritional deficiency diseases. The prevalence of the disease is increasing, and it has been documented that every third patient suffering from eating disorders in the United States dies as a result of the condition.

Persons who are predisposed to developing anorexia increase their risk of developing an eating disorder if they are involved in sports that typically require a low body weight, if they smoke, if they have a high consumption of alcohol, if they are depressed, or ir they have been exposed to sexual assaults.

From the view of the traditional medical system, the disease is considered a modern lifestyle disease with a primarily psychological origin. Anorexics are therefore given psychiatric treatment with behavioural adjustments in relation to food and eating.

Another hypothesis is that the disease is a manifestation of a wish to subject oneself to a modern female ideal, and that women starve themselves to live up to the standards of this ideal.

Anorexia and zinc
As early as in the 1930s, scientists discovered - through experiments with animals - that loss of appetite and anorexia could be caused by zinc deficiency, and that anorexic rats could be treated with a growth hormone with a high content of zinc. In many cases the rats were cured.

In 1978 scientific investigations documented that decreased consumption of zinc over a period of 6 months led to falling plasma concentrations of zinc, which could result in anorexic symptoms. In 1976 another investigation had shown a connection between zinc deficiency and mental disease.

The fact that zinc deficiency could be considered as the primary cause of anorexia has therefore been known since the late 1970s. The researchers D. Bryce-Smith and R.I.D. Simpson - using a simple and convincing method - were the first to document that anorexia could be treated with zinc supplements.

The results of the investigation were published in The Lancet, one of the most acknowledged and popular medical periodicals. Still, the result of these investigations has had no impact on the treatment of eating disorders. This is suprising since zinc deficiency is relatively easy to detect by use of a simple test.

Any kind of stress can increase the severity of the condition and make treatment impossible.
Anorexic patients are often overachievers, irritable, perfectionistic, and touchy. Any kind of stress can increase the severity of their mental and biochemical condition.

Recommendations

General advice on disease prevention and a healthy lifestyle can be found in the library article "General Advice - for healthy as well as for ill ones" in the VitaHealth section under Focus Articles. You can also test your health by taking our "Health Check".

If anorexia is to be treated, the person has to have food rich in nutrients and above all a zinc supplement. You should make sure that the food and the supplements are actually being eaten. In the critical periods, the anorexic person should avoid exercise. This, however, can be quite difficult.
It is extremely important to bring down the general stress level in everyday life.

When anorexia or bulimia is suspected, or if someone has already been diagnosed with either one, the following test can be performed in order to document zinc deficiency:
Zinc deficiency can be discovered in a safe and simple way by using the following "zinc-taste-sensation test": Take 1 tsp. of zinc sulphate solution (1 g. of zinc sulphate heptahydrate dissolved in 1 l. of distilled water = a 0,1% solution). Apply the solution to the entire surface of the tongue and keep the solution in the mouth for 10 seconds. Describe the taste and compare it to the following sensations:
  1. The solution tastes like water: considerable zinc deficiency (as in anorexia).
  2. A dry metalic taste appears after 10 - 15 seconds: moderate zinc deficiency (as in bulimia).
  3. Instant appearence of slightly unpleasant taste: slight zinc deficiency.
  4. Instant appearence of very unpleasant taste, lasting up to half an hour: Possible slight zinc deficiency, although not very pronounced.
Avoid smoking, eating or drinking up to half an hour before the taste sensation test.
The zinc sulphate solution is relatively easily absorbed by the body in doses between 40 and 80 ml. (9,1-18,2 mg. of zinc) a day, and can be combined with 25 mg. of vitamin B6 for 1 -2 weeks. When the sensation of taste returns, one can consider changing to zinc tablets if additional supplementation is necessary.

It has been documented that the best results are often achieved by administering zinc supplements in fluid form. The test-fluid Zinc-tally is well suited for this purpose. In some cases the dose should be up to a whole bottle a day.

Supplementation of lactobacteria can aid in the normalization of digestional problems.

Remedy Suggestion

Persons suffering from anorexia may be unwilling to take the following supplements, if they suspect the products will increase their weight. A possible argument could be that none of the products contain sufficient calories to directly increase weight.

Talk therapy with an experienced therapist is recommended, but always together with:
  • Multivitamin-minerals: "VitaMax": 2 tablets in the morning and in the evening.
  • Extra zinc: Either in liquid form ("Zinc Tally"): ½ - 1 bottle in the evening or "Zinc Picolinate": 1 capsule before bedtime.
  • Lactic acid bacteria: "Probiotic Blend ": 4 capsules a day.
  • "Fish Oil ": 1 - 2 capsules in the morning and in the evening.
Possibly
  • Protein: Protein powder or an amino acid complex. For example, Amino 2 Gram
  • 5-HTP: 200 - 300 mg. daily. Not together with a meal. (Is currently not available from Shop Vitaviva)
Very weakened persons whose sensation of hunger has disappeared and who reflexively vomit after every meal, require easily attainable proteins. In this case, a daily amino acid complex is beneficial; small doses that are slowly stepped up.

If the diet suggestions mentioned above does not improve your condidion in a matter of 8 weeks, then look to other things that might need to be changed in your lifestyle. The programme can also be supplemented with other things from the product review. Perhaps a supplement of B vitamins.

Warnings

N.B. It is important to seek medical expertice upon appearence of the symptoms described above. Anorexia is a potentially life-threatening condition. You need help and should contact your family practitioner in the following cases:
You continue eating although you are actually full, and feel packed with food.
-You have weekly food-orgies, each time with food groups that have high-calorie contents.
-You have had a large weight loss and still think of yourself as being overweight.
-You provoke vomiting after eating.
-You ignore the bodies hunger signals and skip meals.

Remarks

Also see "Bulimia" and "Stress".

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