The negative effects of eating disorders can be extensive, with serious consequences that threaten your psychological, emotional and physical well-being. Thirty million people in the United States alone will be diagnosed with an eating disorder during some point in their lives.
Common Ill Effects of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders have the potential to cause damage to every organ system in your body. For instance, the unhealthy effects of eating disorders can negatively affect the:
- Cardiovascular System
- Gastrointestinal System
- Neurological System
- Endocrine System
The Body’s Endocrine System
Your body’s endocrine system is made up of various glands that produce and secrete hormones. The endocrine system includes the:
The various hormones your body makes control most of your major systems. These messengers regulate your heartbeat, metabolism, hunger, state of mind, sexual functioning, reproduction, growth, sleep patterns, and play a critical role in your body’s cell and organ chemistry.
Eating Disorders and Hormones
An eating disorder such as anorexia can impact hormonal changes due to malnutrition and self-starvation. Concentrations of sexual and thyroid hormones will fall, possibly causing osteoporosis, or weakening of the bone, over time.
Hormonal changes take place in a person with an eating disorder in response to starvation. These fluctuations in the production and secretion of hormones work to save energy when the body has little stored away because of the eating disorder.
When an eating disorder begins in childhood or during the preteen years, the hormones that control puberty and growth will fail, leading to reduced development and maturation of bones.
Eating disorders can also affect thyroid hormone levels, leading to hypothyroidism, which makes people feel the cold more, become constipated, or have very dry skin and other dermatological conditions.
The effects of eating disorders are closely related to the glands that produce cortisol, growth hormone, and noradrenaline also known as “stress hormones”. Trouble with sleep, higher levels of anxiety, depression, and panic attacks occur when these stress hormones are released in higher concentrations in response to an eating disorder.
The body’s ability to maintain regular menstrual cycles can be impeded when eating disorders occur, especially when this condition begins affecting young girls and women. The hormonal change can influence fertility, and cause some women to become infertile. Men’s sex drive can also become diminished, including erectile dysfunction.
Eating disorders can have significant physical and psychological repercussions, many of which are due to hormonal fluctuations. Seeking help and receiving treatment is paramount to overcoming the effects of eating disorders.