Dr. Taz MD on Treating Eating Disorders

This week, February 23rd to March 1st, is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Every patient I see with an eating disorder has a unique case and the treatment protocol is always customized to his or her individual needs.

Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, affect the lives of 30 million people in the United States accordingly to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).  And that number only includes reported cases. Eating disorders are not a fad diet or a cry for attention; they are serious, life-threatening conditions.

My Aproach to treatment?

An eating disorder is often the sign of an underlying nutritional imbalance that then triggers the emotional roots of eating disorders. Often times an eating disorder is rooted in poor gut function, with an overgrowth of the wrong bacteria, excessive yeast in the belly or poor absorption of essential nutrients- like fats, amino acids and minerals. More specifically there is research tying together the incidence of eating disorders with a deficiency in zinc. 

How have you seen eating disorders affect the body?

Eating disorders perpetuate the key health issues of nutritional deficiencies and GI distress.  There is a pattern in integrative medicine, where an eating disorder sets up leaky gut, triggers inflammation, alters adrenal hormones which then in turn disrupt the entire hormone cycle, especially in women.  Infertility, autoimmunity and inflammatory bowel disease can all be consequences of a history of eating disorders. 

Best ways for family and friends to be supportive? 

I think the best way to support someone with an eating disorder is to focus on their mental health and teach them to shift away from focusing on food as an outlet.  Dealing with the emotional root first, then rebuilding gut function slowly, replacing key minerals are first steps. Once this is done, then a nutritionist or a meal plan will be more successful. While counseling can be helpful, I find that acupuncture, Cognitive behavioral therapy or craniosacral therapy are better at dealing with the emotional root of this unfortunate disease.

Many people suffering from an eating disorder have also been subject to some form of trauma; whether it is divorce between their parents, death of a loved one or a highly stressed environment or a history of abuse- either physical or sexual, which indirectly teaches and imprints a self-loathing of the body.