Skip to Content

Bulimia and the Health Risks of Induced Vomiting


Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder defined by a person's obsession with binge eating and weight loss. In order to lose weight quickly, some men and women turn to self-induced vomiting.

Most Common Effects

Induced vomiting often creates calluses and scars on the knuckles or hands. Additionally, the cheeks may become puffy from repeated vomiting and appear "chipmunk-like." The teeth can also become discolored from exposure to stomach acid, often turning yellow or even clear.

There are a number of internal risks associated with self-induced vomiting. The esophagus and stomach can tear or rupture, ulcers can form in the stomach, and bulimics may suffer from diarrhea. Bulimics are also at a risk of dehydration and may suffer from low rates of potassium, magnesium and sodium in the body.

Ipecac syrup, a medicine used to induce vomiting, can build up in the body over time and lead to heart damage or sudden cardiac arrest.

Risks for Women

Women who suffer from bulimia are at a higher risk of having irregular menstrual periods than average women. Those who induce vomiting one to three times a month have a 60 percent chance of irregular menstrual periods, while women who vomit at least once a week triple their risk. Irregular periods are an indication of hormonal disruptions, which can affect bone and mental health and may lead to irreversible damage.

Weight Loss

Those who induce vomiting for weight loss are unlikely to ever meet their goal. Because calories are absorbed the moment food enters the mouth, vomiting rids only 50 percent of the body's calories at best. Because of this, bulimics are often average weight and sometimes slightly overweight. In the long run, bulimics will gain more weight than they can ever attempt to lose through self-induced vomiting.

Source: Help Guide