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Stomach Problems for Anorexics and Bulimics

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 6 Jul 2020 | comments*Discuss
 
Eating Disorders anorexia bulimia

Anorexics and bulimics often suffer from a variety of physical ailments related to their eating disorders. Anorexics or those who fear weight gain and combat it by decreasing their caloric intake, can suffer from the effects of malnutrition including a weakening of the stomach muscles, ulcers, and stomach “shrinking” or distending. Bulimics, or individuals who routinely binge and then purge, can also suffer from stomach problems such as a similar weakening of the stomach muscles, ruptures or tears in the stomach walls, stomach pain or a general upset stomach and stomach ulcers. These problems all present very real health risks, and if left untreated they can even lead to death.

Anorexia and Stomach Problems
When anorexics severely limit their caloric intake they often lose a great amount of weight in a short amount of time, leaving them at least 15% below a weight that would be considered healthy for their age and height. This weight loss leaves them with little body fat, but it can also reduce general muscle mass and tone as well, including a weakening of the stomach muscles and possible damage to the nerves which signal the stomach to digest and pass food. If this occurs there can be delays in how efficiently the stomach empties when food is introduced. This situation is often referred to as delayed stomach emptying or gastroparesis.

If stomach emptying takes too long, food can actually ferment in the stomach and cause bacterial problems. Food can also harden in the stomach, forming solid lumps known as bezoars, which themselves can cause stomach pain and vomiting. In addition to these concerns, anorexia can also lead to ulcers in the stomach when there is no food to protect the stomach walls from stomach acids, and a hard, swollen distended stomach can result from both bacterial infections and ulcers. The lack of food ingested by anorexics can also lead to “shrunk” stomachs that feel fuller faster and can not accommodate normal amounts of food until they are gently “stretched” with slightly larger snacks and meals.

Bulimia and Stomach Problems
In contrast to anorexics, bulimics generally have stomach problems that are related to eating too much food in one sitting (binging) and then getting rid of this food either by inducing vomiting or taking laxatives (purging). Bulimics can also suffer from weakened stomach muscles, damaged nerves and resulting gastroparesis which means that they can also suffer from bacterial problems, bezoars, and distended stomachs. Bulimics can also suffer from stomach ulcers due to the constant presence of stomach acid (particularly in those who vomit as a means of purging). Repeating purging can also lead to ruptures or tears in the stomach wall, and general feelings of nausea and stomach pain even if no binging or purging has occurred that day.

Stomach problems are just a few of the health risks that accompany both anorexia and bulimia. Unfortunately these problems can be incredibly painful and long-lasting, and almost all of them can lead to greater health problems if they are not treated immediately. If left unexamined, stomach problems associated with eating disorders could even lead to death, so any consistent stomach problem should be investigated by a medical professional as soon as possible.

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I have bulimia on and off for 5 years now. But these last few months I have been purging a lot. Then I tried to stop using laxatives and induce vomiting for probably around 3 weeks now. I just noticed that my stomach is feeling painful everytime I wake up. I also feel nauseated every now and then but it last only for a few seconds. I felt like I will pass out then it will be gone. Additionally, my stomach is rumbling everytime. I tried taking this lactobasillus drink. I'm not sure if it helps with digestion. It's just so hard to stop this. ??
Spintronics - 6-Jul-20 @ 6:04 AM
I had an eating disorder for a year whereby I was restricting and then decided to get help June 2019. Luckily I have no issue with gaining weight now, I was just stuck in a habit of not eating with restriction and what I was doing was in fact not healthy. Therefore, my increase in intake started and I was on a surplus everyday, making sure I got more than enough in even if I wasn’t hungry. Everything was going well and I was gaining weight without any issue or real severe symptoms that are worth noting. However it got to the end of October 2019. (I thought I had a lucky and easy escape) Then I started to experience a wide range of symptoms like acid reflux and have recently been told I have gastroparesis like discussed above after a meal study ?? which is due to having had an eating disorder. I couldn’t understand how my body escaped these symptoms when I was gaining weight and getting better In recovery over the 5 month period and then all of a sudden just came on me. Don’t get me wrong it was still hard, I still got slightly bloated and felt full regardless but nothing crazily severe like now! The fullness is literally like I am about to burst! and I do burst - I get reflux! I was able to eat a surplus without any real digestive issues for the first 5 months in recovery! Due to getting these symptoms my intake has then decreased and I have lost some weight again (unintentionally) and I’m still nervous as we speak because I’m not at a healthy weight anymore. I can barely eat. I genuinely am trying so so hard. I am constantly full, even with water my belly explodes and I have constant reflux. It is so easy for food and water to just come straight back up. I have never experienced such a horrible thing in my life I am always in pain and find it hard to do normal things. (The hardest part was trying to let my family know that this wasn’t me making this happen to myself and it wasn’t me choosing to have this - that something inside me just wasn’t right which thankfully has been diagnosed and I wasn’t brushed off by a doctor saying “it’s just her head, she has had a history of an eating disorder”) I’m just so nervous about my future and really hope that these symptoms because of my eating disorder don’t last forever and that I’m not always bursting full after a few spoonfuls of cereal???? I am only 20 and I am finding it so very tough. I just hope I’ll be able to go out to a restaurant one day with my friends again and choose whatever I want or have a pizza night. I can only pray this happens! I have read that with weight gain it can resolve the gastric emptying but I’m confused how I was fine for 5 months in recovery? If you have any advice or any guidance please let me know I would be forever grateful!! Thank you so much because I am finding it hard to see light at the end of the tunnel with these physical complications further making it harder for me to continue. I feel like a lost cause and I hate getting up in the mornings because of it??
Ellie - 20-Apr-20 @ 11:45 AM
I suffer from bulimia for the last 18 years but I throw up only 1 meal the largest one during my day, but its been a while that I cant make myself vomit I try so hard with no vomit at all I don't know the reason n its very strange and make me very upset
nb - 19-Apr-20 @ 11:08 PM
i have been struggling with bulimia for about 5-6 months now. i was regular. i used to b/p several times a day and gaining weight obviously. this week i have been trying to eat healthy and balanced meals. i chose delicious protein sources and small but well prepared pasta/rice with salads. i tried to enjoy some sweets guilt-free. but i couldnt stop weighing myself every bathroom break. everytime i see even a 0.1kg change(most of the time its just water), my stomach pushes everything up as a reflex. i dont use my fingers or toothbrush anymore. my stomach just empties itself. sometimes i see milk or tea coming out of my nose. im not losing any weight but im exhausted andout of breath most of the time. i experience chest pains which keep me awake at night. i cant keep the food inside. please someone help me
asia - 29-Dec-19 @ 8:42 PM
I’m bulimic on and off and I don’t purge and binge all the time but recently I have been a lot. Now that I’m trying to stop I get nauseous and extreme body and stomach pains when I eat and don’t throw up even if it’s not a lot of food. My whole body constantly hurts and I’m always nauseous and it’s really affecting my life is there anything I can do to help this?
Kk - 26-Dec-19 @ 7:27 AM
Ive recently started making myself throw up. I'm on the keto diet and Ive over eaten carbs some times then feel so guilty I make myself sick I don't think about it when I eat but after it hits me so hard I feel disgusted in myself
Aampp - 8-Nov-19 @ 4:53 AM
I have a daughter Emily who has anorexia since she was 8 she is getting severe stomach pains and has been to A & E and let home without any proper tests she has been to gp who has referrred her to have a camera in to her stomach but I fear she will die before this happens as I think she has an ulcer what can i do ?
windy - 29-Sep-19 @ 10:14 AM
Hey So I’m recovering from starving myself, I would basically only eat veggies and no sweets or meat , and would run tons and now my tummy is always bloated and I fart a lot and I hate it, it’s fill hard my tummy most of the time , it’s sometimea okay when I haven’t eaten?! What do I do please help!!
Lisa - 6-Nov-18 @ 6:04 PM
New here, would like to find out more about Lost and her comment. I share the same phobia
Tinygal - 22-May-18 @ 1:53 PM
@ET - go to her GP. There must be something wrong if she can't keep anything down. :(
MelT - 9-Feb-18 @ 2:23 PM
@Farahd - you're not on your own and bloating is a common problem for those people who have had an eating disorder. It's a way of your body of protecting itself, to stop you from risking not eating. It is your body trying to protect you. It will go away, only if you eat regularly and your body begins to trust you again that you will continue to feed it nutrients. Be thankful that you have a body that is tried and tries to save you from killing yourself. Think yourself as beautiful and you will feel it. The bloating will go away - you just need to allow your body to trust that you will eat regularly again.
MinnieeB - 8-Feb-18 @ 11:28 AM
I’m consistently yo yoing between restricting to eating, I don’t over eat.I have had anorexia on and off for 30 years.Something changed 5 years ago, I started to gain weight on my tummy.My tummy is not wobbly or squishy but hard and bloated ALL THE TIME, because of this my natural instinct is to restrict but it doesn’t get rid of the pregnant looking tummy, I’m so distressed over it that I refuse to let people see me, so now I am totally isolated and fat and miserable I hate my life.
Farahd - 7-Feb-18 @ 8:22 PM
My friend’s stomach has shrunken from not eating enough and she doesn’t know what to do because now she wants to eat but can keep nothing down. What can she do?
ET - 2-Feb-18 @ 11:47 PM
Annie T - Your Question:
Please help me. My daughter is in college. She just called to tell me she's bulmic and had been for a year. She can't do it but is scared and wants help. I feel so bad I didn't know but realize now there were signs she's always had issues with self worth and esteem. I'm helping her find a counselor near her college but feel so helpless. What is the cause? Is there something I should have done or should do now. She's a bright beautiful girl with lots of friends. She's only told me. I feel so bad for her. Any advice would be helpful and prayers welcome. Thank you

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. Try not to blame yourself for your child's disorder and accept that you may never know what triggered it. Your best option is to accept that your child has an illness and focus on recovery, please see Family Lives link here, from which you can find out more. Doing as much research as you can and talking to as many professionals as you can will help you educate yourself and help you to also make informed decisions regarding what you think is in the best interests of your child at this sensitive time.
EatingDisorderExpert - 4-Dec-17 @ 3:23 PM
Please help me. My daughter is in college. She just called to tell me she's bulmic and had been for a year. She can't do it but is scared and wants help. I feel so bad I didn't know but realize now there were signs she's always had issues with self worth and esteem.I'm helping her find a counselor near her college but feel so helpless. What is the cause?Is there something I should have done or should do now. She's a bright beautiful girl with lots of friends. She's only told me. I feel so bad for her. Any advice would be helpful and prayers welcome. Thank you
Annie T - 3-Dec-17 @ 10:39 PM
Hi there ive been a bulimic for almost 6 years but recently ive started getting intense pain in my left side of my abdomen..i havent got any overies so i knows its not that..i feel like ive got aches and pains like you do with a bug
Dolphin - 23-Nov-17 @ 4:58 PM
ZMS - Your Question:
Hi, so I’ve became bulimic from the past few months and recently I’ve tried to stop it by keeping food down but if I do I have massive pains in my stomache, they’re are similar pains to period pains but I just know they’re not. Is it because of my bulimia or is it something else? Thanks - Zoe

Our Response:
I'm afraid we cannot attempt to give a diagnosis online, for obvious reasons. You would have to visit your GP to find out more.
EatingDisorderExpert - 20-Nov-17 @ 3:05 PM
Hi, so I’ve became bulimic from the past few months and recently I’ve tried to stop it by keeping food down but if I do I have massive pains in my stomache, they’re are similar pains to period pains but I just know they’re not. Is it because of my bulimia or is it something else? Thanks - Zoe
ZMS - 18-Nov-17 @ 2:36 PM
@Lissa - you should definitely go to your doctors. It might be something like your gallbladder, but it's always worth getting yourself checked out, especially if the pain is not going away.
Fee - 29-Sep-17 @ 2:59 PM
Im having sharp pains in my upper stomach closer to my ribs, i get very dizy, my head aches, if im honest my whole body hurts. Ive been very sick for a while but this pain has me laying down right now. Im just curious if i should go to the hospital my stomach has been hurting something fierce for days now
Lissa - 29-Sep-17 @ 6:39 AM
@Mary oatsvall - right behind you Mary - I hope you conquer this <3
MissusF - 8-Sep-17 @ 12:49 PM
I'm on day 2 from puking and I'm 84lbs and I'm 5 4 and I don't want to die I want to live and be there for my son to grow up i want to get better and I'm 10000% am going to fight this I'm not gonna let this get the best of me no way I'm just having belly bloated and I know it will go away it's gonna take time but I'm going to hold my food in
Mary oatsvall - 7-Sep-17 @ 9:46 PM
Hi there I have suffered with being bulimic for am by years but over the last year it has got worse I'm making my self sick atleast 3 to 8 times a day only recently after few months everytime I be sick it's like I have this painfull dull similar to like period pains at the bottom of my stomach seems worse after I been sick sat here in pain at moment do you know what this could be in also always tired and have no energy also lots of headaches?
Ciaralexi - 16-Aug-17 @ 4:47 PM
Susan1951 - Your Question:
So worried. Sara age 34 has been anorexic for 9 years having weighed 13 stone and lost 7 stone. She is painfully thin.5 ft 6 ins tall.a head teacher and lives alone. I am helpless. I am her mum but I am treading on eggshells every minute of my life. I feel I cannot talk to her about her anorexia. And I am so so sad. Has any one any suggestions please. I really need advice. Thank you so muchSue

Our Response:
Sorry to hear this - it must be so upsetting and heartbreaking for you as a mother to watch your daughter going through this. As you probably are well aware, it is not unusual for people with anorexia to become depressed, obsessive and angry and lash out at those who are closest to them. In their heads they know they have a serious mental condition but are bound by a feeling of helplessness as the illness has taken control. This is not your daughter you are dealing with, but the illness and the irrational voices in her head that are controlling her thoughts. You need support also in order to help your daughter. Please see link here. I imagine you have been through a lot in this nine years, but your only option is to continue to try every angle to work through this with her, but you also need to look after yourself.
EatingDisorderExpert - 24-Jul-17 @ 12:38 PM
So worried. Sara age 34 has been anorexic for 9 years having weighed 13 stone and lost 7 stone. She is painfully thin .5 ft 6 ins tall.a head teacher and lives alone. I am helpless. I am her mum but I am treading on eggshells every minute of my life. I feel I cannottalk to her about her anorexia. And I am so so sad. Has any one any suggestions please. I really need advice . Thank you so much Sue
Susan1951 - 22-Jul-17 @ 1:02 AM
I haven't had a proper meal in 4 days, I haven't had dinner at all. Just like one snack each day because i was so busy I didn't want to eat. But now I've got horrible internal pains in my belly, if I move it puts me into tears, I can't touch my belly at all either. This pain has Continued for 3 days now and isn't the first time I have got it. The pain is usually just above my belly button but some days it's everywhere.
Sandra - 16-Jun-17 @ 7:29 AM
I have been skinny-obsessed since I was 15 ; 40 years ! I never weigh, but am probably about 98 lbs at 5'4". I am happy this way, but have crippling stomach problems which it's now too late to fix.
thinforever - 10-Jun-17 @ 10:13 AM
Remma - Your Question:
Hi I've took laxatives for years but never made my self sick. For awhile now I've been waking through night feeling sick and vomiting just a small mouthful? Does anyone know what this could be?

Our Response:
As you may well be aware, prolonged use of laxatives can have harmful effects on your bowels, stomach and disturb the natural levels of salts and minerals in your body. We cannot attempt to diagnose what may be the cause of your vomiting, but if you are experiencing troublesome or persistent side effects while taking laxatives, you would really need to visit your GP.
EatingDisorderExpert - 1-Jun-17 @ 2:09 PM
Hi I've took laxatives for years but never made my self sick. Forawhile now I've been waking through night feeling sick and vomiting just a small mouthful? Does anyone know what this could be?
Remma - 1-Jun-17 @ 4:40 AM
I eat 500 calories in the week and burn that but then on the weekend i eat 900 calories is this an ed or not
Ella - 7-May-17 @ 5:42 PM
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