- Coping with Appetite Disturbances
Appetite Disturbances, either experiencing loss of appetite, or
having difficulty controlling it, can be helped with several
alternative therapies. If you experience a notable change in
appetite, you should first consult a physician, to rule out any
illness or nutritional deficiencies. Whether you want to stimulate
your appetite or control it, changing the way you eat may help.
Appetite loss is the body's defense against ingesting anything that
could slow the healing process. Almost any infection can cause a loss
of appetite. A passing cold or flu virus could be responsible. Even
the weather. So could more serious things like tuberculosis, low
thyroid function, diseases of the heart or lungs or liver problems.
Bulimia is an illness characterized by uncontrolled episodes of
overeating usually followed by self-induced vomiting. Eating binges
may occur as often as several times a day. Induced vomiting known as
purging allows the eating to continue until interrupted by sleep,
abdominal pain, or the presence of another person. The person is
usually aware that their eating pattern is abnormal and may
experience fear or guilt associated with the binge-purge episodes.
The behavior is usually secretive, although clues to this disorder
include overactivity, peculiar eating habits, eating rituals, and
frequent weighing. Body weight is usually normal or low, although the
person may perceive themselves as overweight.
The exact cause of bulimia is unknown, but factors thought to
contribute to its development are family problems, maladaptive
behavior, self-identity conflict, and cultural overemphasis on
physical appearance. Bulimia may be associated with depression. The
disorder is usually not associated with any underlying physical
problem although the behavior may be associated with neurological or
endocrine diseases. The disorder occurs most often in females of
adolescent or young adult age. The incidence is 2 in 10,000 people.
Bulimia is a bit different from anorexia because the person with
bulimia doesn't avoid eating. Instead, he or she eats a large amount
of food then gets rid of it quickly by vomiting or taking laxatives.
This is commonly known as "binge and purge" behavior.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder associated with a distorted
body image that may be caused by a mental disorder. Inadequate
calorie intake results in severe weight loss. The exact cause of this
disorder is not known, but social attitudes towards body appearance
and family factors play a role in its development. The condition
affects females more frequently, usually in adolescence or young
Unique features of anorexia are not only the strong desire to be very
thin, but also the altered body perception that goes with it. People
with anorexia have an intense fear of being fat. When a person has
anorexia, he or she hardly eats at all — and the small amount of food
that is eaten becomes an obsession. A person with anorexia may weigh
food before eating it or compulsively count the calories of
everything. It is not unusual for a person with anorexia to also
exercise excessively in an attempt to lose weight.
Statistics show the risk factors are seen most often in Caucasians,
having an upper or middle economic background, being female, and
having a goal-oriented family or personality. The incidence is 4 out
of 100,000 people.
Other culprits of appetite loss include anti-histamines, over the
counter drugs, pain killers and perscriptions.
Aging itself can take its toll on the appetite. In older people the
metabolism slows down, muscle mass decreases and physical ailments
impede activity. On top of all this, taste sensations diminish and
stomach secretions don't flow like they used to. All of these things
contribute to appetite loss.
Controlling your appetite, is another matter. We often eat out of
habit, not hunger. People who do try to stop an addictive behavior,
such as smoking, often find themselves overeating. One reason is
habit: They're used to doing something with their hands and mouth, so
they eat. Or they could be battling the misery of nicotine withdrawal
with the nurturing pleasure of food. Regardless of the excuse, this
lack of control often leads to many health problems. See related
topics: weight loss , aging , depression , stress , sleep
difficulties , pms , anxiety , thyroid problems , diabetes and
According to the American Institute of Gastroenterology, the best
strategy to promoting good overall health is to eat a balanced,
predominantly plant-based and nutritionally dense diet. Most of your
daily calories should come from vegetables, fruits, whole grains and
Best Balancing Tips
1. Recognize the problem: People with an appetite disturbance often
do not recognize or admit that they have a problem. A trusted family
members or other individual you believe in can be helpful in making
sure that needed care or rehabilitation are received.
2. Determining your needs: Appetite disturbances, eating disorders,
depression and anxiety all require a comprehensive diagnosis, in
which, the clinician will determine whether the person is in
immediate danger and/or requires hospitalization. Nutritional
counseling, psychosocial interventions, monitoring, as well as
medical care maybe appropriate.
3. Talk Therapies: Individual psychotherapy (especially cognitive-
behavioral or interpersonal psychotherapy) , group psychotherapy that
uses a cognitive-behaviora l approach and family or marital therapy
can be very effective. Overcome low self-esteem and addressing
distorted thought patterns and behaviors are crucial. Families are
sometimes included in the therapeutic process.
4. Severe weight loss: requires an inpatient hospital stay, where
proper nourishment is given and the person's medical needs are met.
In some cases, intravenous feeding is appropriate.
5. Moderate exercise is crucial: for both successful weight loss or
for those suffering from anorexia and bulimia. Not only does it help
burn excess calories, but by increasing your physical activity you
can modify the way your brain regulates hunger, making you less
susceptible to food cravings and can increase hormones in order to
stabilize mood or anxiety disorders . If exercise is done
excessively, in the case of anorexia and bulimia, encouragement of
healthy but not excessive exercise is the specific goal in this
6. The primary goal of treatment for bulimia: is to reduce or
eliminate binge eating and purging behavior.
7. The primary goal of treatment for anorexia: is restoring weight
lost due to severe dieting and purging.
8. Vitamin Therapy: is a good way to help your body regulate what you
may not be getting through your diet or what you are losing through
purging and abuse. A good daily multivitamin is the best start.
9. Drink Plenty of Water: Not only will you loss water as you
exercise, drinking water makes you feel full, therefore, not as much
room for food.
10. Control blood sugar levels: this is a good way to balance your
system by eating 5 small high protein meals a day.
11. Limit Animal-based Foods: such as meat and dairy products, which
are loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol. Use olive oil or
canola oil instead of butter or margarine to reduce your intake of
saturated fat and hydrogenated fat (trans fat). Moderate your
consumption of fried, salted and smoked foods.
12. Portion Control: Eat portions to satisfy hunger, not to clean the
plate. By dinner, if you have complex carbs (potatoes, yams, brown
rice…) with your meal; it should be no more than a cup full. Half of
your plate should be vegetable. The meat, fish, chicken portion
should be the size of your fist. Portion control is the secret to a
healthy weight! Avoid coffee, sugar, alcohol.
13. Believe: Your belief system has everything to do with the mental
and spiritual aspects of any eating disorder. Fight anxiety with
relaxation exercises rather than food. Utilize meditation, yoga,
stretching. By creating healthy eating habits and regular exercise,
you are sure to lose weight without depriving yourself of nourishing
food. And if you continue those good habits after you reach your
goal, you will have an excellent chance of maintaining your desired
weight and see it more as maintaining a lifestyle as opposed to a
11. Sleep Well: Good quality sleep is important, especially when you
are trying to loss weight or recover from anorexia or bulimia. It is
most important to go to sleep with a "Quiet Mind". Sleep rejuvenates,
detoxes and regulates the body.
12. Overcome Fear: Fear can be an underlining problem in many cases.
There are many ways to quiet the mind. Doing 15 to 30 minutes of
meditation or yoga can be very helpful. You must allow yourself to be
distracted or get into your meditation or yoga and "let go" of the
days thoughts...consider meditation. Address your fears or phobias by
Andrew Pacholyk, MS, L.Ac