XU LI LI—Senior Physician
Eating disorders include anorexia, bulimia and selective eating disorder, where the patients stick to only a few different food items, and refuse to add variety to the diet. Those with severe eating disorder can also experience many psychosomatic symptoms, such as chest pain, palpitation, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis, etc.
TCM believes most eating disorders are caused by stress and excessive worry. These negative emotions can hinder the flow of Qi related to the liver, and lead to digestive dysfunction. There are two main types of eating disorders. The first type presents as excessive hunger despite adequate food intakes, while the second type presents as frequent diarrhea, belching, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Bloating and abdominal pain can be associated with either type.
I had a young female patient, who purged after each meal to avoid weight gain. She lost about 20kg over time, and a year later, she was anorexic. She couldn’t eat. Every time she eats, she would reflexively throw up everything. She experienced bloating, abdominal pain, mood swings, and amenorrhea for 6 months. She had to quit school and stay home. When I treated her, I chose herbs and formulas that sooth the liver and strengthen the digestive system. These formulas are ChaiHu ShuGan San, JiaWei XiaoYao Wan, and ShenLing BaiZhu San. We also treated with acupuncture that focused on the following acupuncture points—ZhongWan (CV12), GuanYuan (CV4), GuiLai (ST29), ZuSanLi (ST36), SanYinJiao (SP6), and TaiChong (LR3). After a few short months, her appetite and menstrual cycle normalized. The above-mentioned acupuncture points can also be massaged once a day as a home therapy.
Early stages of eating disorders are not always apparent to others. The condition has often become quite severe when the patient eventually decides to seek care. At this stage, the condition is more difficult to treat, and it takes a longer period of time for the body to recover. Thus, a well-balanced diet and healthy lifestyle are imperative in the prevention of eating disorders.
Here are a few lifestyle changes that can be helpful.
- Establish regular eating habits. Good dietary habits are the keys to nurturing the digestive system. One should eat three meals a day with adequate portion size. Your plate should mostly be occupied by vegetables, along with some lean protein. A variety of fruits and vegetables in the diet ensures sufficient nutrient intake and prevent constipation. One should also avoid stimulating and hard-to-digest foods, such as spicy, fried, and raw food.
- Adequate exercises. Proper exercises can strengthen one’s digestive function by increasing gastrointestinal motility and digestive enzyme secretion. This, in turn, improves digestion and absorption, as well as circulation and metabolism of the digestive tract.
- Mood stabilization. Avoid mood swings. Good mood equates good appetite, as our emotions play an important role on our appetite, digestion and food absorption.
Source: Life Care magazine © Ma Kuang Chinese Medicine & Research Centre Pte Ltd. Reproduced with permission.
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