Eating disorders are serious medical problems that can have long-term health consequences if left untreated. The causes remain unknown, but they usually coexist with psychological and medical issues, such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, trouble coping with emotions, and substance abuse. The three main types are anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.
Patients with anorexia have an extreme fear of gaining weight. They often diet and exercise relentlessly, sometimes to the point of starvation. Dramatic weight loss is the marked sign in this group.
Patients with bulimia have episodes of eating large amounts of food followed by purging (vomiting or using laxatives), fasting, or exercising excessively to compensate for the overeating. Patients in this group usually have normal weight.
Patients with binge eating disorder have frequent episodes where they binge on large quantities of food. Like people with bulimia, they often feel out of control during these episodes. Later they feel guilt and shame about it. The behavior becomes a vicious cycle, because the more distressed they feel about binging, the more they seem to do it. Since people with binge eating disorder do not purge, fast, or exercise after they binge, they are usually obese.
Eating disorder treatment depends on a patient’s particular disorder and symptoms. The treatment typically includes a combination of psychological counseling, nutrition education, medical monitoring and sometimes medications.
A pilot study, conducted in Australia, showed potential of the benefit of acupuncture as an adjunct therapy on people with eating disorders. Nine female patients received their routine treatment combined with acupuncture. The results proved that acupuncture helped improve the patients’ quality of life, reduced level of anxiety and perfectionism.
Fogarty S, Harris D, Zaslawski C, McAinch AJ, Stojanovska L. Acupuncture as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of eating disorders: a randomised cross-over pilot study. Complement Ther Med. 2010 Dec;18(6):233-40.