In addition to many of the risks and health dangers associated with eating disorders, muscle atrophy may be one of the most detrimental. Muscle atrophy is the wasting, or loss of muscle tissue and mass associated with the under nourishment of one’s body.
When a severe case of anorexia or bulimia occurs the body becomes malnourished, leaving it to feed off of itself. Vitamins, proteins, and fats that our body needs are critical to maintaining a healthy weight and building strong muscles. If untreated, these disorders can make it difficult for the body to rebuild muscle in the future leaving the body weak and more susceptible to injury.
There are two types of atrophy; disuse atrophy and neurogenic atrophy. Disuse atrophy, the more common of the two, occurs when muscles are not used enough. This occurs often with bedridden people because of decreased muscle activity and limited movement. Neurogenic atrophy is more severe than disuse and comes on more rapidly, often a result of damage to the nerves by injury or disease. Both types of atrophy result in the loss of muscle movement and strength.
The type of muscle wasting associated with disuse and nerve damage results in the same sort of deterioration that happens with eating disorders but the wasting occurs from a lack of muscle strengtheners and builders in our diet. When we are denied the necessities for our bodies to function properly the body begins to conserve energy by slowing down its natural processes.
Our most important muscle, the heart, is directly affected by muscle wasting and if eating disorders go untreated may be left permanently damaged. A serious symptom, of anorexia in particular, is a noticeably slower heart rate and lower blood pressure. This can reflect the changing, and weakening, heart muscle. Other symptoms include a reduction in bone density, fatigue, and dehydration.
As your muscles deteriorate from the lack of nutrients being distributed they lose their ability to function properly and strengthen themselves. The affects of muscle loss while suffering from an eating disorder may make it more difficult to build muscle during recovery. The only realistic treatment of muscle atrophy is to begin the healing process of an eating disorder. Until one is able to regain a safe body image and reintroduce nutrients the body has been deprived, the body will not be able to rebuild itself, keeping it strong, healthy, and nourished.