by Dr John Winsor - The Sunday Times of Malta

Most people know about anorexia nervous — when people deliberately starve themselves to keep their weight down — but bulimia, or excessive vomiting, is another extreme of the disorder.

Although bulimics have near normal weight, it comes at a price, and that is their health.

They delude themselves into thinking that the only way to keep the calories they have eaten from turning into fat is to make themselves vomit or by taking excessive amounts of laxatives.

What they don’t realise is that it is not an effective way of preventing the absorption of extra calories.

It isn’t just women who can suffer from anorexia or bulimia, although women are 10 times more liable to succumb to eating disorders.

Bulimia may start after months or years of anorexia. It is essentially a teenage problem, though it may extend into adult life or even begin then.

The frequent food binges by bulimics can lead to depression. The physical and psychiatric complications of his behaviour lead to educational, occupational, social and family problems.

One of the obvious signs of bulimia is hard skin or marks on the back of the hand due to repeated abrasion of the skin as the hand is thrust down the throat to produce vomiting.

A dentist may also spot the condition as the salivary glands can become enlarged as well as the teeth losing their enamel through repeated vomiting — which causes the teeth to come into contact with abnormal amounts of gastric acid.

And it is not just the outside appearance of the body that suffers.

Repeated vomiting also upsets the chemical balance of the blood, which can result in painful cramps, fits and even kidney damage.

A sympathetic ear is the first priority when it comes to treating the disorder.
Once the problem is out in the open, the sufferer and their doctor, friends and family can join together to fight it.

The person who has the disorder will need psychotherapy to tackle and overcome their behaviour. This will reveal why they feel they have to binge and vomit, and break the cycle.

There is help out there for anorexics and bulimics, but they must take the first step and seek help from their doctors as soon as possible before they seriously damage their health.

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