There are many well-meaning people out there who think they have the "cure" for eating disorders. Sanjay Gupta of CNN has taken a stab at it in the past (the actual link escapes me at the moment). More recently, "Dr. Irina" has suggested a 95 day treatment program on CD that will forever cure the sufferer because
“all eating disorder sufferers have subconscious blockages and these blockages are the reason people have the disorder. Once the blockages are identified and removed the eating disorder is gone.”
Riiiiiiiiiight. You would think that if the "cure" for eating disorders was that simple, someone would have come up with it before. Listen to a CD. There ya go. ::pats on the back::
One magazine article that crossed my path had a little more detailed, though no more helpful, approach to anorexia recovery. In American Chronicle, writer Ricky Hussey* starts out promising.
"Until recently, anorexia was believed to be solely a psychological disease. Now, however, scientists and nutritionists have identified a number of physical symptoms as well, such as a zinc deficiency and a chemical imbalance similar to the one associated with clinical depression."
Okay. I can do this.
Unfortunately, that was about the only useful and indeed accurate statement in the whole article titled "Complementary and Alternative Treatments for Anorexia Nervosa." At the end of the first paragraph, Mr. Hussey** says that the sufferer should
"eat a diet high in fiber, including fresh raw fruits and vegetables. These foods cleanse the body and help your appetite return to normal. Avoid sugar and processed or junk foods, which contain no nourishment at all."
When I started refeeding in residential treatment at the end of 2005, I had horrific stomach cramps from eating an onion garnish because my system literally couldn't tolerate food that complex. And imagine the gas. Whooo! Put the matches away, kids. It's true that I would advise against eating pure sugar for anyone, let alone for someone likely to have difficulties regulating glucose levels, but I would just say to eat proteins and fats with the sugar. I have reactive hypoglycemia, so I crash if I eat carbs without some form of protein and/or fat with them. That's been true before the AN.
And calorie-dense items like "junk food" are just the sort of foods a recovering person NEEDS. I ate 2 candy bars a day for a while to help get in the amount of calories I needed. The fat and calories were essential to my recovery. Raw fruits and vegetables take up too much stomach space for a person who needs to get maximum calorie bang for the buck.
Hussey goes on, describing vitamin and mineral supplements:
vitamin B12 injections (1 cc 3 times weekly) increases appetite and prevents loss of hair; use in lozenge form if injections are not available
Which is fine, if you have a documented, severe B12 deficiency. I had a friend benefit from these injections- but she had testing done beforehand. And it wasn't to increase appetite. For starters, an anorexic will NEVER take something purely to "increase appetite." Secondly, s/he doesn't have a problem with appetite- the problem is with eating, with being so afraid of food that they are unable to eat.
It gets better. Here are some other "treatments" you can use:
To lessen anxiety and soothe the nervousness and low spirits that often accompany anorexia nervosa, aromatherapy practitioners suggest any of the following essential oils: bergamot, basil, Roman chamomile, clary sage, lavender, neroli, or ylang-ylang.
Ayurvedic practitioners worry about the lack of nourishment as well as the depression that's often associated with anorexia. They may recommend cardamom, fennel, and ginger root to help stop vomiting and improve digestion, and advise a bland, soothing diet without spices, coffee, or tea. To soothe and calm the nervous system, practitioners also may suggest massaging the head and feet with warm sesame oil.
Try herbs that stimulate the appetite, such as ginger root, ginseng, and peppermint. Herbal products are availablein health food stores and in some pharmacies and supermarkets. Follow package for specific directions. Remember to consult your doctor before enr barking on any new regimen. Anorexia shouldn't be ignored; the disorder can have serious consequences.
Acupuncture can help enhance an anorexia sufferer's general recovery by promoting feelings of well being and by balancing the body's chi, or energy levels, which have most likely been impaired by the patient's habitual self-starvation. The length of treatment will vary, depending upon the needs of the individual and the severity of her condition.
Thanks for the help, Mr. Hussey, but I think I'd rather stick to proven methods. My chi is just fine, thanks.
So I would like to award Dr. Gupta, Dr. Irinia, and Mr. Hussey (who has no health qualifications that I could find, which begs the question: who the hell is he to be giving this advice?) the Smooshy Faced Cat Award:
*I'm SO not going there with his name. I want to, however. But I will restrain myself. Have at it in the comments, however, if you're so inclined.
**It's totally bizarre to write out "Mr. Hussey." Like really, really weird.