what is it and what are its symptoms and consequences

    Social networks have been in charge of making visible some Eating Disorders that until now seemed to be silenced, and among them one stands out that paradoxically, is sometimes reinforced by some 3.0 accounts that affect the way we see our body. We talk about the orthorexia, a disorder that causes sufferers to be obsessed with healthy eating following patterns very similar to bulimia and anorexia and that can seriously affect both physically and psychologically. The term came to light when in the year 2000, Dr. Steven Bratman published the book ‘Health Food Junkies’, which when appearing in ‘The New York Times’, came out of the shadows and stood at the epicenter of the debate.

    It is not, of course, a matter of having a healthy and balanced diet and playing sports, but rather the problem arises when that concern for maintaining a healthy lifestyle becomes a obsessive compulsive disorder that makes those who suffer from orthorexia become obsessed with eliminating any type of nutrient considered harmful to the body from their diet and all those foods that are considered not to be the healthiest food options. Against all odds, this obsession with full health can lead to serious problems due to deficiencies of essential nutrients. This is what could happen, for example, when completely removing from the diet healthy fats, that provide essential vitamins such as vitamin D and that if eliminated, can weaken the immune system.


    The obsession with eating healthy

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    “Reducing food intake below caloric and nutritional needs can lead to metabolic alterations that prevent the body from functioning properly and the development of digestive, kidney or heart diseases. In the same way, eliminating certain foods from the diet can modify the intestinal microbiota, generate intolerances and lead to chronic diseases that are difficult to control”, warns Dr. Cecilia Sanz García, a specialist in the Digestive System at Sanitas La Moraleja University Hospital. .

    “This disorder usually leads to very rapid weight loss and pronounced, lack of energy and fatigue (including what determines the time to plan and organize your diet) and greater ease of suffering injuries, together with excessive sport without being well nourished”, says the nutritionist Verónica Velasco from BluaU de Sanitas, which also warns that in extreme and prolonged cases, this disorder can even lead to health problems that have required surgical intervention. “There are cases in which the subject ends up fainting and controlled hydration treatments have to be carried out to regulate ion levels or implant nasogastric feeding tubes or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomies,” warns Dr. Cecilia Sanz García, a specialist in the Digestive System of the Sanitas la Moraleja University Hospital.

    “This disorder can even lead to problems that have required surgical interventions”

    what is orthorexia

    what is orthorexia

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    It is not only healthy eating that becomes an obsession, but practicing physical exercise is another characteristic of this disorder that, as we have mentioned, can sometimes be favored by social networks, where the term ‘fitspiration’, that promotes training and following a very meticulous diet to achieve the image of a slim, toned and fat-free body that is estimated to be the desired one. However, the problem is that in the 3.0 universe some concepts can be misunderstood and the user can end up falling for non-professional sources of information that sometimes lead to unhealthy practices that could lead to psychological and health problems.

    “TCA cases have increased by 20%”

    Cases of Eating Disorders (Eating Behavior Disorders) they have increased by 20%, according to figures from the Fita Foundation, and one of the reasons for this increase is the increase in exposure time to technologies and social networks. “Although previously it is commented that behind these eating disorders, there are other factors that are not talked about so much that can play a very important role. It is true that social networks act as an important precipitating and risk factor for the appearance of these problems. Above all, in the stage of adolescence, in which our adolescents are very focused on seeking the acceptance and admiration of their peer group. In this way, they will try to imitate the unrealistic canons of beauty that set trends on the networks,” says Raquel Velasco, a psychologist at BluaU de Sanitas.

    How to recognize orthorexia: the symptoms

    The truth is that sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between when someone is worried about their diet and accompanying it with physical activity and when it is an obsession. Some signs are spending more than three hours a day thinking about the day’s diet, control of food composition, portions and combinations that lead to careful planning and of coursethe feeling of guilt in the case of skipping some requirement, a slip that can force that person to the subsequent and immediate practice of exercise in order to try to burn those calories ingested. “On a psychological level, he registers a series of quite marked behavior patterns that clearly affect his ability to have a balanced social coexistence,” explains Raquel Velasco del Castillo, a psychologist at BluaU de Sanitas. In other words, it usually leads to social isolation caused by their dietary rigidity.

    The physical and psychological consequences of this disorder must be detected and treated as soon as possible by physical and mental health professionals, who will be responsible for completing the appropriate treatment after detecting the origin of this disorder. “Once we detect the problem, the treatment, which, in any case, must be multidisciplinary, will be the patient’s awareness of the risks he runs at a nutritional and social level of maintaining these strict habits and a therapeutic intervention will be carried out to provide the person with of the ability to make their guidelines more flexible, achieving true Healthy habits”adds the psychologist from BluaU de Sanitas.

    Although psychological work is necessary to be able to overcome orthorexia, of course it also requires the support of the social and family environment. “The loved ones will be a very valuable resource for accompanying and helping the patient, always guided by the advice of the health professionals who are working with him,” she concludes. In this way, little by little you will manage the problem of orthorexia and restore your quality of life and social life.

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