Bulimia Nervosa, Explained pt. 2

Bulimia Nervosa

Health risks and dangers associated with Bulimia Nervosa

All eating disorders have health risks associated with them. Some are much graver than others but nonetheless, they all present serious and unique physical and mental challenges to those who are suffering from them. Eating disorders do not develop overnight which is just as true for the negative health ramifications that develop in tandem and as a result of the eating disorder. Eating disorders are unfairly stigmatized by an individual’s physical appearance, with common critiques being “they don’t look like they have an eating disorder?” An eating disorder impacts so much more than just what the individual looks like. Eating disorders ravage the inside and the out, the physical and the mental. But we as a collective audience are only privy to so much, most of which we can only see. 

 Bodies that are subject to the impacts of Bulimia Nervosa behaviours are in a constant state of upheaval. Bulimia Nervosa is categorized by its binge purge cycles. A binge puts the body into a state of discomfort by vastly over consuming in a small amount of time. Not only is the body physically uncomfortable, but the mind is, too. The individual feels as if they have lost control; with no power, or autonomy over their body or decisions. After the completion of a binge, comes purging behaviour. A purge that happens infrequently due to the flu or food poisoning is albeit unsettling but will most likely not cause permanent damage. However, purging as a result of Bulimia is not a one-time occurence and sends the body into a state of distress.

 Describing the impacts of eating disorders, in particular Bulimia, have on the body is unpleasant. Individuals with eating disorders are hardly thriving, they are at times, simply trying to survive. It is important to remain cognizant to the fact that eating disorders are not an active choice. Individuals don’t choose to succumb to the grips of eating disorders, but EDs are all consuming and leave individuals feelings like they have no choice at all, except their disorder. Eating disorders are deceptive, they’re tricky, and they’re manipulative. Making individuals feel like there is only one way, when in reality, recovery is also a way, and so is a life of happiness, freedom, and self-love. It requires vulnerability and resilience, support, and nurturing, but eating disorders are treatable and most certainly, beatable! 

What are the specific health risks of Bulimia?

The health risks associated with Bulimia are vast. The binge purge cycle is incredibly taxing on the physical body, both externally and internally. A body in a homeostatic state ingests food and digests it. It is not a normal, expected, or a healthy function to actively purge what has been consumed via vomiting, the use of laxatives, or diuretics. Laxatives and diuretics have very specific use cases and to take them frequently and often can be very detrimental. Below is a list of health risks associated with this particular ED:

  Tooth decay and tooth enamel wearing

  Throat swelling

  Facial swelling

  Cardiovascular irregularities

  Russell’s sign

  • Calloused and bruised hands, in particular knuckles
  • Small lacerations on the back of the hand

  Digestive problems, constipation, diarrhea


  Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

  Thinning hair

  Irregular sleep

  Irritated esophagus, possible abrasions

What does Bulimia recovery look like?

Bulimia recovery does not look the same for anyone. Recovery is an intensely personal journey and differs greatly depending on the need state of the individual. Treatment for Bulimia however follows a similar structure for all individuals, and all eating disorders for that matter. Although the needs of the individual dictate if all treatment steps are necessary, Bulimia treatment generally requires the below:


  • If the individual is in a medically compromised position, it is important to ensure the individual is in a stable physical place to begin treatment


  • The longest portion of treatment is active therapy. It is a critical component in getting to the root of the eating disorder to work through, understand, and manage the psychological side of the eating disorder. Furthermore, it is a necessary step in setting up the individual with tools for their future, free of Bulimia.

  Nutrition Counseling

  • Often nutrition counseling is a necessary albeit less obvious component of recovery. It is important to provide the individual with true and real information about the necessity of sustenance and what our body needs to not only survive but thrive. 

Related Article: Eating Disorder Facts and Canadian Statistics


Q: What causes bulimia?

A: There are no specific causes of Bulimia, or any eating disorder for that matter. It is believed that those who develop eating disorders have pre-dispositions to their development. There are, however, occurrences in one’s life which may nudge an individual in the direction of an eating disorder.

Q: What is the most serious consequence of Bulimia?

A:  The most serious consequence of any eating disorder is death.

Q: Does Bulimia have long term effects?

A: There is potential for Bulimia to cause long term damage to the kidneys, cause diabetes, and result in hormonal imbalance.

Q: How long do people with Bulimia live?

A: People with Bulimia who recover can have an average life expectancy.

Dr. Natalie Mulligan graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). She completed her clinical internship at the Robert Schad Naturopathic Clinic with a focused interest in mental health. Prior to attending CCNM, she completed a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Waterloo.