Biological Factors in Eating Disorders

Biological factors in eating disordersWhen a person suffers from an eating disorder, there are many serious changes in the body. But how does the eating disorder begin in the first place? Some scientists believe that there may be biological causes of eating disorders.

Biological Causes of Eating Disorders

No one is completely sure what causes eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Most psychologists and doctors agree that eating disorders do tend to run in families and that eating disorders and brain changes are related. But right now, there is a lot of disagreement about whether genetics cause the eating disorders or if the eating disorders are learned in life.

Some research does suggest that anorexia and bulimia may run in families. Research is still inconclusive when it comes to binge eating. What we do know is that if a child has a sibling that is also diagnosed with an eating disorder, then he or she is 10 to 20 times more likely to develop that eating disorder than the general population.

This difference may be caused by brain chemistry. Individuals who suffer from anorexia tend to have high levels of cortisol in the brain. Cortisol is related to stress, and indeed, those who suffer from anorexia tend to have high levels of stress and a high need for perfection.

Also, studies have shown that there is a decrease of serotonin in the brains of individuals with anorexia. Similar results have returned for other eating disorders as well. Serotonin is related to happiness and our feelings of contentment. It makes sense then that if a person is always unhappy about his or her body, then there would be lower levels of serotonin. So it is very hard to tell which came first: the unhappiness about body image or the low levels of serotonin.

Biological Effects of Eating Disorders

One thing scientists are sure of: eating disorders wreak havoc on the human body. There are many biological effects of eating disorders. Below are some common factors that may occur with particular eating disorders:

Biological Effects of Anorexia

  • Low blood pressure and irregular heartbeat
  • Amenorrhea in women, or loss of menstrual periods
  • Weakness and fainting
  • Feeling cold all the time and anemia
  • Yellow, dry skin, wrinkles or peeling skin
  • Insomnia, restlessness or exhaustion
  • Digestive irregularities like constipation or bloody stool
  • Hair growth all over body that is usually fine, pale hair
  • Hair loss on the top of the head
  • Osteopenia, osteoporosis, bone loss
  • Extreme acid reflux that can erode the esophagus
  • Tooth decay and gum disease from malnutrition
  • Depression, suicide and mood swings

Biological Effects of Bulimia

  • Weight loss and gain, fluctuations in weight
  • Damaged esophagus from stomach acid and vomiting
  • Puffy, painful cheeks caused by repeated vomiting
  • Digestive issues such as ulcers, diarrhea or constipation
  • Internal bleeding
  • Broken blood vessels in eyes
  • Possible loss of menstrual periods in women
  • Tooth decay, rotten teeth, missing teeth
  • Chronic sore throat
  • Fainting, dizziness, weakness
  • Swelling of hands and feet

Biological Effects of Binge Eating Disorder/Compulsive Overeating

  • Obesity or weight fluctuation
  • Cardiovascular (heart) disease
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • Fainting, dizziness
  • Coma
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • High cholesterol
  • Digestive problems
  • Sleep apnea

Eating Disorder Help

Eating disorders can be deadly. The truth is that eating disorders are prevalent in the U.S. and Canada. You don’t have to be alone in your struggle—help is available. We offer a toll-free 24 hour helpline to help you explore your options for treatment and get you back on your feet and feeling better. Take a few moments to give us a call and speak to one of our trained counselors about your situation. A few moments may change your life forever.

(866) 612-7509