Anorexia Ayurvedic Treatment

An eating disorder anorexia/ anorexia nervosa causes abnormal lose of weight, increased fear of gaining weight and misperception of being over-weight. People with anorexia tries hard to lose their weight and maintain body shape by continuously skipping meals or severely reduce the amount of food they take or even follow very awkward ways to lose weight. Anorexia is often considered as an unhealthy way of overcoming emotional distress. The actual reason for anorexia is unknown. It may be caused by the combination of biological (genetic changes), psychological and environmental (eg: social acceptance, peer pressure etc) factors. 

Signs and symptoms

Physical symptoms Emotional and behavioural symptoms
Extreme weight loss/ not gaining weight according to age Trying to lose weight by severe exercise, severe dieting or fasting, self-induced vomiting sometimes using laxatives/ enemas/ diet aids etc. 
Lean body Frequent skipping of meals
Fatigue  Preoccupation with food
Dizziness/ fainting  Refusing to eat publicly
Abnormal blood counts  Spitting out food after chewing
Cold intolerance  Social withdrawal
Dry skin/ yellowish discolouration over skin  Covering up inside cloths
Cyanosis (bluish discolouration of nails) Repeatedly weighing body
Thin hairs which easily break  Lack of interest in sexual contact
Low blood pressure  Lack of emotions
Irregular menstruation  Sleeplessness
Dehydration  Repeatedly complaining about being fat or parts of body is fatty
Swelling of arms and legs  Frequent checking in front of mirror
Constipation, abdominal cramps 
Irregular heartbeat 
Callus (bulging) on knuckles due to induced vomiting 

 

Ayurvedic analysis 

 Mental distresses like shoka (depression), bhaya (fear), chinta (anxiety) etc causes anannabhilasha (lack of interest in having food). During these conditions, satwa (mental power) becomes reduced and tamas (ignorance) increases. Avoiding meals for prolonged period leads to vatavruddhi (aggravation of vata) and kapha kshaya (reduction of kapha) as well as rasa kshaya (reduced quality of rasadhatu- the end-product of digestion that develops into other dhatu/ tissues in body). The symptoms of vatavruddhi and rasa kshaya are almost similar: 

Vatavruddhi causes: rukshata (dryness), karshya (emaciation), karshnya (discolouration of body), ushna kama (desire for heat), shakrt graha (constipation), kampa (tremors), bala bhramsha (weakness), nidra bhramsha (insomnia), pralapa (incoherent speech), bhrama (giddiness), deenata (fatigue) etc. 

Rasa kshaya causes: rukshata (dryness), bhrama (giddiness), shosha (emaciation, reduced muscle bulk), glani (fatigue), and shabda asahishnuta (intolerance to sound/ noises). 

  Rasa kshaya further leads to kshaya of other dhatu/ tissues. Their symptoms are: 

Rakta kshaya: amla preeti (desire for sour food), sisira preeti (desire for cold), rukshata and sira shaithilya (loosely packed blood vessels). 

Mamsa kshaya: aksha glani (weakness of sense organs), reduced bulk of gluteal muscles, and joint pains. 

Meda kshaya: krushangata (emaciation) and pliha vruddhi (splenomegaly). 

Asthi kshaya: weakness of bones, brittle hair/ teeth etc.

Majja kshaya: asthi soushirya (osteoporosis), bhrama (giddiness) and timira (vision problems). 

Sukla kshaya: erectile dysfunction, pain over scrotum/ penis etc. 

Causative factors (Ayurveda)

Satwa is decreased by incompatible food, unaccustomed food, etc. Vatavruddhi is caused by over-intake of dry/ cold/ spicy food, skipping of meals etc. Rasa kshaya is caused by skipping of melas, taking very less amount of food, consuming very hot/ spicy food, day sleep, fasting etc. Rasa kshaya further leads to kshaya of other tissues. 

Possible complications

Major complications are irregular heartbeat, electrolyte and fluid imbalance, anaemia, loss of muscle mass, heart problems like mitral valve prolapse, irregular periods, reduced testosterone levels in males, abdominal discomforts such as constipation/ bloating/ nausea, reduced bone density, organ damage, personality disorders, depression, alcoholism and substance abuse, obsessive compulsive disorder and even death. 

Other systemic diseases and precautions to be taken

 Consider other issues like emotional stress, gastrointestinal disorders etc before planning treatment. 

Management

 The management is focused on pacifying vata, improving satwa bala, correcting rasa kshaya and other dhatu kshaya depending on the symptoms. Internal medications are given along with snehana (oil massage), swedana (mild sudation- eg: hot water bath), nasya (nasal instillation of medicine) etc. Psychotherapy helps in improving satwa bala and correcting the misperceptions regarding food intake and weight. 

Diet

 In severe cases give semi-solid or liquid diet in order to tackle electrolyte imbalance. Easy to digest food items such as gruel, vegetable or meat soup, fruit juices etc can be included in diet. 

Exercise

 Exercise is not prescribed in this condition. After regaining the normal dietary habit, the patient is directed to indulge in mild exercises, yoga, pranayama, meditation etc. 

Preventive aspects

 Anorexia cannot be prevented, but the misperception regarding body weight and appearance can be corrected by healthy social reforms. Maintain emotional and mental health, exercise regularly and be aware about the healthy food habit. 

Importance of diet

 The wise choice of food is vital during severe anorexia and associated complications to avoid electrolyte imbalance and death. Slowly include solid food in diet as the patient regain their health. 

Lifestyle 

  • Avoid emotional stress.
  • Avoid checking body in mirror and body weight frequently. 
  • Acquire knowledge about healthy food habit and importance of nutritious food in maintaining health. 
  • Go for psychotherapy and counselling whenever needed.

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