No advice is better than this...

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 Medicine
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.

Herbal Therapy
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.

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bobwildwoodstore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mary said...

Suppose you want me to put away my wand?
Actually, I'd love to have some foot rubbing time.

While I am no non sense at heart, and feel that restoring the nutrients and fats that are severely depleted in many who've given up fats, is the essential treatment, I also believe that any way or nutty thing someone tries is their right. We all know that there are chemical changes from meditation and yoga. Preferably these things are done as a compliment, not sold as cures. In fact if they will create a part of recovery themselves all the better. Cheapies like myself have used night school to take tai chi and it's wonderful. It eases anxieties. I have known alternatives to succeed in other areas where modern medicine failed miserably.
Come on...let me keep the wand! /****** It's fun.
Glad your back.

January 29, 2008 8:15 AM

Tracey said...

"Kitty Smooshy-Face"! Now that's the look that says it all indeed!

After the 20/20 blip on Anorexia, you have to wonder how much more of these bastardized doucumentaries, "investigative" reports, recipes for "cures" the uneducated public can or will stomache (the potential for humor obviously is higher!)

I don't have major issues with individuals utilizing alternative and/or supplemental forms of treatment; we've used several modalities and have had experienced some positive results. This ends up being a truly personal choice- and I can respect that.

Even "Dr" Irina's "cure"- hey, go for it! But we warned you... I think a good friend, support network would be a better bang for your buck though, and I honestly I couldn't tell if Ms Irina's accent was genuine after listening to some of the posted links- not even a D-rating for authenticity, I'd maybe offer up $5 (and that's being quite generous) as a donation to hear the oratorial.

It's the "claims" and what these "experts" seem to THINK they know, and many don't have any direct experience or first hand knowledge in any form of research, study, or practice within treating ED's- or even know anyone personally.

It's the blanket and erroneous statements stated as "facts" that get me and the rest of us that know better. Mary's magic "wand" would probably do a better job!

Good job Carrie!

bookgirl said...

I agree with the others in that alternative therapies can be wonderful - so long as they are not used as a "cure" but as they should be - "complementary."

I personally found herbs, supplements and aromatherapy to be so, so helpful. Peppermint and ginger worked better for me then any conventional treatment for my aching belly. And a good flax or rice filled hot pad with some lavendar always helped comfort a swollen belly and relax me.I have some friends that said accupuncture really helped with their GI issues. I might try it this time around.

But "cure" --- ????? That is sad to here because the idea of cure... Well, it sounds so nice. I just wish it were that simple - don't we all??? To sell someone a "cure" - that's just so very, very wrong. And sad... sigh....

disordered girl said...

Holy crapolie, that statement from Dr. Irina sounds like if you just take some good laxatives to clear out your "blockage" you'll be find. And the stuff about doing things to increase appetite? Wha???? Thanks for reminding us there are still a TON of misconceptions out there. I think I get so lost in my world where I read everything I can about an issue that I assume others know the same stuff I do.

Anonymous said...

What a service you are doing by bringing these issues to the attention of others. The more we talk/write about eating disorders, the more those who are not educated about them will understand how prevalent they are.

I used to hear that whenever a bunch of clinics popped up in town it was because something new had been approved by insurance, e.g. when you suddenly see MRI clinics, or weight-loss surgery clinics, etc., it's not because there's been a sudden increase in illness, it's because there is an opportunity to make money.

I wonder if this rash of alternative "cures" could be considered a positive in a sense - i.e. if there are people out there trying to take advantage of people with eating disorders, then perhaps that indicates that at least someone is realizing what a large "market" it is.

Hopefully it will not be as long before the government agencies who fund research and the medical training schools that still consider eating disorders too rare to fit into the curriculum will catch on as well.

Best wishes with your recovery,

Jessica Setnick,MS,RD,CSSD
Author of The Eating Disorders Clinical Pocket Guide

swimfan93 said...

I agree--alternative treatments can be very helpful, but only if they complement a more intense form of therapy. I have been doing acupuncture for about 2 months now and have been thoroughly impressed with the results. It's gotten rid of my migraines (which can eating even more difficult), my digestion problems, and the days I get acupuncture are my 'better' days (better mood, etc). I don't know how much it helps with eating, but it certainly helps my depression and anxiety issues, which are undeniably linked to the anorexia.

carrie said...

I don't have a problem with many of the alternative therapies- I myself am a big fan of yoga and meditation. And like you said, Swimfan, I think it does help with my anxiety especially. Herbal tea (regardless of flavor, as long as it was one I liked!) helped with digestion.

But aromatherapy? I like smelly things as much as the next person- probably more- but other than being pleasant, I don't know they have any health benefits in and of themselves.

Without widespread clinical trials (and many times even with them!), I don't like prescribing things to a large audience. This guy has *no authority* to be making these statements. If he's an MD/DO/other health professional, he should *say so*. If he's not, he needs to interview and quote and cite sources who do know this information.

I'm all for things that work for you. I'm not exactly the world's most normal person. :)

Dreaming again said...

Picture of my table ;)

Harriet said...

Hmmm. It kinda reminds me of the comments made by the doctors on the Mike and Juliet show this week, when Rachel from The F Word and Mo were on talking about fat acceptance. And the hotshot doctor offers her rules for healthy eating, and they were, I kid you not, "Don't eat anything white" and "Don't drink anything with calories in it." Hello, have you ever had an eating disorder?

This is along the same lines, no?

carrie said...


I don't know whether it's better or worse that the 'doctor' had a medical degree. Granted, she's a gynecologist, but still.

And all I could think about the 'white food' stuff was: so we shouldn't breastfeed our children? Breast milk has two strikes against it- it's white AND it has calories. I know she would say "that's not what I meant" if someone asked her about it. But screw what she meant- it's what she said. And that's what's important.

PalmTreeChick said...

I want to give that cat a big squishy kiss on its nose!!

carrie said...

Or at least slip the poor dear some Prozac!

I'd totally snuggle him, though. I'm a sucker for any cat. Not into the hairless kind, however- they just look kind of, I don't know, rodent-like.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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