Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Eating Disorders and Homeopathy

Our food isn't what is was. Our eating habits are not what they were. And there is little doubt that the problem of 'eating disorder' is very much on the increase. It has been estimated that there are at least 1.1 million people in the UK affected by eating disorders, with young people aged 14-25 most at risk of developing this illness, and with 10 times more women than men suffering from either anorexia or bulimia. More statistics can be found here.

Recovering from an eating disorder can take a long time, and there are many treatments, including cognitive behavioural therapy, inter-personal psychotherapy, dietary psychodynamic counselling. There is also conventional medication. The NHS Choices website mentions SSRI drug treatment. SSRI's are antidepressants, known to have some very serious adverse reactions, especially if taken over a long period. And in long-term use there is the danger of serious withdrawal problems. Moreover, whilst SSRI drugs might deal with the depression that can often be a background factor, I know of no evidence that these drugs can, or do treat eating disorder directly.

Homeopathy is an alternative medical treatment for those suffering from an eating disorder. As an holistic therapy it has the advantage of treating the individual as an individual, recognising that he/she has his/her own reasons for developing the disorder. So, as suggested in this article, the homeopath may want to go back to the earliest years of life, to childhood eating patterns, and wider familial and social issues that might have led to the eating disorder.

In going into this background, the homeopath is looking for a remedy that is known to have 'similar' characteristics to the individual's personal experience of the disorder. The basis of homeopaths is 'treating like for like', and remedy selection is crucial. This article, by a leading homeopath, Robin Murphy, gives some examples of the remedies that have been found to be useful in the treatment of eating disorder. Take a look, and see how each remedy has a different 'symptom picture'. Here are just three examples, taken from the article.

Arsenicum album - Extreme fastidiousness especially about germs and dirt. Anorexia coupled with fear of being poisoned. Fear of getting certain diseases so they starve.

Phosphoric acid - Etiology: grief with loss of appetite with emaciation, pining away from loss of love, second stage they get indifferent to all emotions and food. Deadness inside. Grief - anorexia than some chronic disease.

Pulsatilla - Feeling of worthlessness, unloved, loneliness, fixed ideas about. Food especially certain foods are bad, than amount of foods that are bad grows, fear of gaining weight, pulsatilla's gain weight easily, they can eat a pastry and swear they gained weight. .... Pulsatilla (patients) ... are constantly weighing themselves. Scanty menses.

Just these simple descriptions demonstrate that the homeopath is not primarily interested in the condition, anorexia or bulimia; but more in the person who is suffering from the condition.

So does homeopathy work? For those who wish to know more, this 'qualitative enquiry into the use of homeopathy for eating disorders' discusses the approach of the homeopath in more detail. The primary objective of the enquiry was to determine whether homeopaths found homeopathy effective in treating the whole person; mentally, emotionally as well as physically. This is the conclusion.

".... the findings show that homeopathy has an effect on all levels; mentally, emotionally as well as physically, which means that homeopathy has no difficulty in combining the physical side of the disorder with the mental aspect of it, and therefore offers a more complete form of therapy than any other type of treatment. The findings indicate, that by concentrating on the underlying reasons the eating disorder appeared in the first place, addressing the central disturbance and aetiology, homeopaths in actual fact connect with the patients, building an honest mutual therapeutic relationship so that the patients stick with the treatment".

We are currently in 'Eating Disorders Awareness Week. So, if you would like to discuss the homeopathic treatment of eating disorders with a local homeopath go to this website.

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