As a woman with a history of binge eating, I’d like to share some things that happen when you binge eat that you might not be aware of. I was ashamed that, though I had a nutrition degree and passion for healthy eating, I let myself suffer binge eating during my recovery from anorexia. I was a binge eater previously in my life as well in late high school years, way before I knew anything about nutrition. During my recovery with anorexia, old demons seemed to surface out of nowhere and I panicked when I realized how I was harming my body, but I couldn't stop without help and patience. During this trial in my life, that I’m happy to say is far gone, I learned some helpful information about what actually happens to the body when we binge eat. When I realized I was harming myself in ways I didn’t even know about. I began to see my body in a whole different light and now, I try to care for it and nurture it, not silence my emotions with food, or not give it enough of what it needs. Look at all the things that happen when you binge eat and I think you’ll be just as surprised as I was, just how much harm can happen from eating "just one more," way too often.
Most of us aren’t thinking about harming our teeth as one of the things that happen when you binge eat. Chronic sugar consumption through binges can lead to not only cavities, but also the wearing down of the enamel on your teeth. This may not seem like a big deal, but your enamel protects harmful bacteria from reaching your gums which may enter your blood stream and lead to disease. It also protects the body from many toxins that we can encounter through the mouth. Brushing your teeth alone won’t make up for ruining your enamel over time. Purging after a binge only makes matters worse as well, which eats off enamel and hurts the esophagus. Whatever you do, don’t start a binge and purge cycle. You’re so much more precious than living in this vicious cycle and should seek help immediately if you suffer from either issue.
Over time, our digestive tracts get accustomed to a certain intake of nutrients. When we get the right nutrients in the right amounts, our guts flourish and allow nutrients to pass from the gut lining through the blood stream to help give us energy and nourish our organs. When your digestive tract is overloaded with binge foods, it not only becomes overburdened, but loses its efficiency over time. Many people who are chronic binge eaters suffer IBS, constipation, diarrhea, poor absorption of nutrients, leaky gut, and many other digestive disorders as well. It can take years for the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to get back in balance after a history with binge eating. Your gut is vital to your health, so take care of it and eat smaller, healthier foods instead of starving during the day and binging at night. I realize this isn’t easy, but your body will thank you in ways you never imagined. A poor functioning gut is no way to live and can create harmful effects that you’re not even aware about, for years to come.
When you take in more calories than your metabolism needs, you may not only feel sick, but may also feel an increase in your heart rate. This happens when the body isn’t producing enough insulin to get sugar out of your cells fast enough, or in timing with how much you’re eating. An increase in insulin can lead to an increase in your blood pressure, which increases your heart rate. I can remember this happening to me, and after a binge, my heart felt like it was flying out of my chest I had eaten so much sugar, carbs and fat. Even binging on healthy sugary, fatty foods like granola bars or nut butters can cause this to happen, because the body is overburned with calories and is trying to compensate, yet it does nothing but exhaust you and makes you sick.
The satiety hormones that tell you when you’re full and when you’re hungry are known as ghrelin and leptin. These hormones are important to a healthy metabolism and are even affected by how much sleep you get. If you’re binging, these hormones eventually stop being as effective as they once were. Over time, they are like sensors, which weaken and eventually being to dissipate so you think you’re hungry when you’re not, or you think you need to eat more, when you’ve had plenty. This can also lead to insulin resistance that leads to Type 2 diabetes as well.
Like I said, insulin resistance is a key issue that binge eaters deal with. Insulin resistance is basically when the pancreas has to produce more insulin to bring sugar and fats out of our pancreas after they leave the stomach from what we’ve eaten. Insulin then carries these into our cells for distribution of nutrients. Over time, binging causes us to be insulin resistant, which means we no longer distribute nutrients efficiently, yet we’re still secreting tons of insulin due to too much sugar and fat. When the body doesn’t need more of these, we store extra insulin as fat cells. This leads to weight gain and type 2 diabetes, along with an increase in desire for foods that raise insulin levels again, such as sugar and fatty foods. Our bodies can no longer sense we have enough insulin when we binge, and continues to secrete more and more that we don’t need.
Too much sugar and fat during a binge will most definitely lead to a headache, though you may not know why. For starters, the digestive tract sends messages throughout the bloodstream that cause contractions in blood flow, which end up causing the headache you’ll have after a binge. These headaches are your body’s way of telling you that it is not happy and you’re harming it in more ways than one. These headaches are similar to headaches you’ll get during a hangover, or having too much coffee.
After you binge so many times, the neurotransmitters in your brain will stop producing serotonin efficiently and you’ll start to turn to food to give you that “high” feeling again. Dopamine is a hormone, just like serotonin is, that increases when we eat. Many of us confused dopamine with serotonin, since both make you feel good. Dopamine, however, is like a drug. It tells the body we need and crave more to be happy and it is the primary hormone raised from drugs, exercise and even eating chocolate. Dopamine makes us almost elatedly happy, which can be addicting. We've all experienced a runners' high or exercise high I'm sure, or we know what it's like to taste a great piece of chocolate and experience that blissful state of mind. This is your body on dopamine and in small amounts it isn't a bad thing. Yet, when our bodies confused it with serotonin, it becomes a problem. Serotonin provides a happy, but more balanced, calm state. When you binge eat, dopamine becomes dominant, and serotonin is usually low. Eating a balanced diet that is rich in nutrients will help balance out your serotonin and dopamine levels that get out of balance after or during a binge.
If you’ve ever suffered from binge eating, then you can relate to many of these issues. Remember that as bad as these binge eating effects are, they aren’t reversible, so long as you stop. Seek help and don’t wait to start your life without binge eating; start today! Get out, take a walk, eat a balanced meal, take a bath and tell yourself you can do this! Free yourself from the imprisonment of binge eating and you’ll get a new, healthy and vibrant body that radiates health. If you need help, check out the sources below for more information. Have you ever experienced any of these issues during a binge?