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Alternative Therapies for Eating Disorders

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 9 Oct 2015 | comments*Discuss
Alternative Therapiescomplementary

Eating disorders such as anorexia bulimia and binge eating disorder are usually treated by both medical and mental health professionals. While alternative therapies should not replace these traditional treatments, they can be used to complement treatment and offer individuals further support and means of healing.

Anyone considering engaging in alternative therapies for eating disorders should check with all of their doctors and therapists before agreeing to a course of treatment, and discuss their disorder with their alternative therapist. If alternative therapies do not bring relief or healing an individual should not feel pressured into continuing them and instead should return to activities and treatments which they find comfortable and beneficial.

Traditional Treatments for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are usually treated both for physical and mental/emotional healing. Usually physical concerns are treated first if they present a significant health risk, or at the same time as mental health issues.

Some individuals with eating disorders may be treated in a residential hospital or clinic to regain their strength, though almost any treatment plan for an eating disorder will include at least one of the following: counselling or talk therapy, family counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy (to change food, eating and/or exercise behaviours), support groups or group therapy, and nutritional counselling and planning.

Medication is not often prescribed to treat an eating disorder unless appetite suppressants are prescribed under a doctor’s supervision (such as for binge eating disorder) or medication is used to treat an associated condition such as with anti-depressants (for depression).

Alternative Therapies for Eating Disorders

Alternative therapies tend to take a holistic approach to treating the entire person, and so are very useful for supporting both physical and mental healing. Anyone interested in alternative therapies for eating disorders should clear it with their medical professionals and discuss their disorder, and current treatments, with the alternative therapist before undergoing any therapy.

Common alternative therapies that are undertaken by individuals with eating disorders include:

  • Acupuncture – a traditional Chinese therapy in which small needles are inserted into the skin at specific points to relieve pain and promote healing. All acupuncture practitioners should be registered with a governing body such as the Acupuncture Society.
  • Aromatherapy – the therapeutic use of essential oils from plants, flowers and trees to achieve health and vitality. Often aromatherapy is incorporated into massages, facials and baths.
  • Homeopathy – the therapeutic use of small doses of medicines to stimulate the body’s natural defence systems in order to re-balance the body. Qualified homeopaths should be registered with the Society of Homeopaths.
  • Naturopathy – the therapeutic use of natural healing techniques and prescriptions of plant and flower extracts. Naturopaths should be registered with the General Council and Register of Naturopaths.
  • Massage Therapy – body massage, or the rhythmic, therapeutic stroking and kneading of the muscles, relaxes and soothes the body and calms and refreshes the mind.
  • Meditation – a method of suspending thought and directing attention in a calm and focused manner. Classes as well as individual lessons are usually available.

Further Information

Further information on eating disorders can be obtained by any medical or mental health professional as well as the Eating Disorders Association and/or National Centre for Eating Disorders. Further information on alternative or complementary therapies is available from UK Therapy or by speaking with a local alternative therapist.

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(continued from above) My son's diet is widening again. It had become very narrow. He has gained 12 lbs. He is his old social self and not the withdrawn kid we saw during anorexia. He is clearly happier. He's able to use some of the techniques he's learning from counseling to resist meltdowns and panic attacks. Before, they were ineffective. He's having fewer and fewer of the meltdowns that are characteristic of people with anxiety and recovering anorexics. When he does have one, it is no longer about food or body weight. He really does seem to need all three of the supplements every day, otherwise we see hints of anxiety and/or restricted eating. Maybe this will change at some point. He gets one capsule of each with his breakfast every day. Yes, he's eating breakfast!
OKDad - 9-Oct-15 @ 9:15 PM
DISCLAIMER: I am not a health professional. I am a reference librarian who has done a lot of secondary web research on a condition affecting my own son. Not everything I read is peer-reviewed, scholarly work. So, take that into consideration and CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR. We did. My 11 year old son is recovering from anorexia and has a related anxiety disorder. From March through July 2015, he dropped from 74 lbs. to 63 lbs. and into the first percentile in BMI. Now in October he is back up to 75 lbs. and is in the 6th or 7th percentile and out of immediate danger. He has been seeing a counselor since July. However, we have been giving him three dietary supplements that all seem to help, individually. Taken together, they are extremely effective for his anxiety and his anorexic thoughts. First, we're giving him Capryllic Acid to combat gut yeast. You could use cold-pressed coconut oil for the same effect, but we have trouble getting our picky eater to take that. We started with two Solaray Capryl capsules every day and have backed off to one. This is supposed to combat gut yeast which, I read, might cause anorexia. At least one physician I read conjectures that in anorexia, the brain is actually trying to starve the candida yeast that creates blood toxins. Unfortunately the host person is also being starved in the process. The first few days on it, there is a purge effect of diarrhea or, in my son's case, a bile reflux. Then these detox symptoms subside and, in my son's case, the anorexia reflux disappeared. If the person you're treating is too weak and malnourished to have diarrhea, you might not want to do this until they've got some strength back. Second, we've got him on a good probiotic. We use the Ultimate Flora brand everyday adult version with 15 billion organisms. The probiotics also help eliminate gut yeast, and the Lactobacillus genus actually helps produce a brain chemical called GABA that helps you calm yourself down and gives you a sense of well-being. Buy the probiotic from a store that keeps it refrigerated. Look for the strain Lactobacillus Paracasei. I read where that one is perhaps the most efficient producer of GABA. He gets one capsule a day. Third, we're giving him a fat-soluble version of vitamin B1 called "Allithiamine", which is available only from the Pure Formulas brand. This last supplement produced an amazing and instant change, as we saw our son revert to his old, social self within 12 hours of taking his first capsule. We started at two capsules a day but have backed off to one. It turns out that our son's picky eating and exercise (he's a runner) had depleted his vitamin B1 (thiamine), and the water soluble version in his multivitamin could not be absorbed adequately. B1 is necessary for the production of GABA, and B1 deficiency is a known trigger of anorexia. You can get allithiamine from eating garlic, too. I should add that we've had him on a multivitamin the entire time (kids' Centrum). M
OKDad - 9-Oct-15 @ 9:07 PM
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