Hormonal Balance and Eating Disorders

Hormonal Balance and Eating DisordersEating disorders are conditions in which individuals become so obsessed with food and weight that they care about little else. The exact causes of eating disorders are not known. For some people, however, the disorders are fueled by a need for control and escape from emotional pain. The following are three main types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa: a condition marked by starvation to attain a perceived ideal body type
  • Bulimia nervosa: a condition in which weight is maintained and controlled by purging food through vomiting or use of laxatives
  • Binge-eating disorder: a condition in which individuals consume excessive amounts of food in a short time period

As with other addictions, eating disorders respond most positively to treatment that is given before psychological dependence becomes deeply entrenched. With timely professional help, full recovery is possible.

How Eating Disorders Trigger Hormonal Imbalance

Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder can influence hormone levels that subsequently trigger physical and psychological problems. These disorders stimulate the production of stress hormones, including the following:

  • Cortisol
  • Growth hormone
  • Noradrenaline

During periods of high stress, these hormones are usually released in higher concentrations. In addition to elevating heart rates and respiratory rates, these hormones generate the following symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Low libido
  • Headaches
  • Bone loss

Eating disorders also impact thyroid hormones. This causes afflicted individuals to suffer from feelings of being cold, constipation and dry skin.

Recovery and Hormonal Balance

In recovery, many individuals receive treatment for eating disorders with a combination of therapy and medication. One common therapeutic goal is to learn to manage feelings—not instead of anesthetizing them with food or diet regimes. Other coping strategies commonly taught in treatment programs include the following:

  • Reaching out: Talking about feelings decreases stress, anxiety and grief.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Counseling that focuses on correcting negative beliefs in order to generate positive feelings and behaviors can help generate dynamic change.
  • Journaling: Putting feelings on paper often brings relief.
  • Getting support: Attending a support group meeting can break isolation.

Holistic therapies are also important components of many recovery programs. Several approaches frequently used include the following:

  • A balanced diet program
  • Herbal supplements
  • Body cleansing routines to rid the body of toxins
  • Exercise
  • Meditation to decrease stress 

Recovery from eating disorders requires a long-term commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In time, positive changes in diet and mental health work together to restore hormonal balance.

Help for Eating Disorders

If you or a loved one suffers from an eating disorder, we can help. We offer Recovery counselors available at our toll-free, 24-hour helpline to guide you to wellness and offer affordable solutions. Please call today and take the first step toward a healthier life.