Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a refusal to eat even to the point of starvations. Ninety-five percent of the people who suffer from this disorder are female. There are many ways that a naturopathic doctor can assist a person who is malnourished from this primarily psychological disorder

Symptoms of Anorexia

The symptoms of anorexia nervosa are largely psychological and have to do with issues of control. Many obsessions rule this disorder including an obsession with weighing oneself, making a fetish of meals, fantasizing about food and obsessing with working out.

Constantly strategizing about how to avoid gaining weight rules the anorexic’s life and includes behaviors such as refusing to eat, taking laxatives and smoking to cut the appetite. Problems with drugs, weight loss supplements and alcohol also often come hand in hand with anorexia.

Fantasizing about food is also an obsession and the disorder may be accompanies by bulimia, which describes an individual who gorges on food and then throws it up.

Most of the symptoms are behavioral and the consequences are hormonal imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, being overweight, bone loss, tissue swelling, boating, the cessation of menstruation, anemia, mood swings, rotting teeth and eye problems. IV therapy and high doses of vitamins can help correct these physical problem and prevent further damage to the sufferer’s organs.

Causes of Anorexia,

Initially anorexia nervosa was thought to be a psychological problem. However in the last few years medical scientists and nutritionists have identified several physical components as well. For example, people with eating disorders have been found to have chemical brain imbalances that are similar to those found in individuals with clinical depression. Some cases of anorexia have been found to be caused by severe zinc deficiency.

As researchers have become increasingly aware of the physiological elements of anorexia the psychological ones continue to beef great importance as well.

The psychological causes of anorexia include

  • Extreme emotions such as guilt, anger, hostility
  • A refusal to grow up and wanting to be cared for by others like a waif or an orphan and
  • A distorted body image that always makes one see the self as overweight no matter how thin they get.

People who are victims of child abuse or who have physically or emotionally abusive family members or partners tend to be more prone to develop anorexia nervosa.

Not being able to live up to their own expectations or others to be as beautiful as the thin women that are seen on television or in magazines is also a motivator for anorexic behavior.

Care and Treatment

If you or an individual that you know shows any signs of anorexia a physician or naturopath should see him or her instantly. In almost all cases an anorexic needs to be given give intravenous nutrient feedings of potassium and multivitamins

The individual also will need psychological and group counseling. Ian intervention and treatment by a psychiatrist may also be necessary.

Antidepressants may be prescribed to deal with feelings of irritability, depression and anxiety or help allay obsessions. Anger management classes may be applicable if the motivation for denying oneself food is anger. If drug or alcohol abuse is the culprit behind the problem then the person may be enrolled in a rehabilitation program or be asked to join Alcoholics Anonymous or Narc-A-Non.

If the anorexic is a smoker, stopping smoking may also be encouraged as nicotine cuts appetite. Acupuncture can help a great deal with some of the symptoms of withdrawing from smoking as well as help increase the appetite.


If untreated, Anorexia can lead to being underweight, extreme weakness, dizziness, cessation of menstruation, swelling the neck, ulcers, erosion of the esophagus, erosion of the teeth from vomiting, broken blood vessels, a low pulse rate and low blood pressure.

The worst consequences of being anorexic are disturbances in heartbeat and hormone irregularities that can cause cardiac arrest and death.

At the Pinewood Natural Health Centre we do have ways of treating anorexia using naturopathic methods. For more information about this or any health issue you may be experiencing, visit the Pinewood Natural Health Clinic website that has a list of full services and products at or call our Toronto Office at (416)-656- 8100. We also have an office in Pickering, Ontario at (905)-427-0057. You can also email us at and we would be happy to answer any question that you have about our holistic health services.

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