Friday’s Flavor: Eating disorders – know the facts

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2010 started Feb. 21.
For the 10 million women and 1 million men in the United States affected by this disease, last week was very important. Eating disorders are commonly misconceived and belittled; patients aspire for the true severity of the disorder to be recognized. 
The National Eating Disorders Association sponsors the week to educate America on the seriousness of eating disorders. An eating disorder is not something one can control. Just like any other disease, it has to be treated in order to be cured.
Eating disorders are not all about food, or just being skinny. NEDA explains this concept perfectly: “Eating disorders are complex conditions that result from several factors including behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors. For some, an eating disorder is a dangerous attempt to cope with or avoid events or feelings in life. It may be a way for a person to try to feel control or to feel nothing at all.”
One of the hardest parts of overcoming the disease is not only having to give up the disorder, but having to deal with the hidden pain or reason for developing the disorder.
The most common types are anorexia and bulimia.
According to NEDA, anorexia is self-starvation and refusal to maintain a weight at a healthy level. Bulimia involves a pattern of binging, or eating large amounts of food, followed by purging by vomiting, taking laxatives or over-exercising.
Other disorders include binge-eating, orthorexia (obsession with healthy eating) and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).
Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate than any other psychological disorder.
Twenty percent of people with anorexia or bulimia die from it.
The reason the death rate is so high is due to the loss of essential nutrients in the body.
In fact, potassium can have a great effect on the life or death of an eating disorder patient. A normal range of the mineral is 3.5-5.0 mmol/L; if one is to have a level less than 3.5, they are considered to have hypokalemia, or potassium deficiency.
Potassium is needed to control muscle action, therefore hypokalemia can cause the heart to stop.
Although hypokalemia is treatable, for some it is too late, and death may be caused by a heart attack or stroke. Unbalanced sodium levels can have the same effect.
Eating disorder symptoms such as fatigue and faintness are caused by low blood pressure and a low red blood cell count due to a lack of vitamin B12, which is found in red meat, fish, poultry and folate, also called folic acid, which is found in dried beans, legumes, cereal and green leafy vegetables. 
An inadequate amount of iron (found in spinach and red meats) may result in anemia and also causes these symptoms.
Anorexic and bulimic patients often have trouble thinking and concentrating from insufficient amounts of vitamin B6 (found in spinach, broccoli, bananas and watermelon) which maintains brain function. Patients may also get a bone density scan to test for osteopenia. An inadequate amount of calcium can cause osteopenia in young adults, resulting in osteoporosis at middle-age.
There are so many vitamins and minerals that help the body function like it should. Listing each nutrient, what it does to the body and what happens if there is not enough would take up the entire newspaper.
Be aware that from simple fatigue to deathly heart attacks, vitamin and mineral deficiencies seriously affect how smoothly bodily functions run. The only way to get all these nutrients is through balanced and adequate nutrition.
According to NEDA, 19.6 percent of college students admit to having an eating disorder. That means nearly 1,000 Bradley students may have eating disorder thoughts.
If you think you or a friend might have an eating disorder, talk to a professional or call Bradley Counseling Services at 309-677-2700. I strongly encourage anyone who is struggling to ask for help, you may be saving your life.