Eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and compulsive overeating are serious and life threatening disorders. Many clinicians have sided with the new genetic research pointing to the increase in incidence of eating disorders in those who have a close family member with an eating disorder. New medications have been used to target the symptoms of mood disorders, binge behaviors and loss of appetite. Despite all of the new “technology” associated with the treatment of eating disorders, there is no substantial change in the outcomes – more people are not getting better.
At the same time in other areas of medicine, new research is pointing to the efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies as an addition to the conventional approaches to treating chronic pain, asthma, depression, anxiety and many other conditions.
In EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing (Sept, 2008) a new study will be published that details the use of dietary supplements and herbs to treat two of the most common problems seen in eating disorder patients: digestive problems (constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas) during re-feeding and insomnia. The study showed that using dietary supplements was as effective as using prescription medications and reduced significantly complaints of both digestive issues and insomnia.
Studies since 1998 have documented an increasing interest by consumers in the use of CAM. The National Health Interview Survey in 2002 identified over 2 million people have tried energy healing/Reiki. An even larger number of people have used guided imagery, qi gong, yoga and ritual prayer.
A recent pilot study shows that acupuncture may help people with posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. PTSD is an anxiety disorder that comes about after exposure to any event which is perceived as life threatening. Acupuncture in this study on 73 people was compared to cognitive behavior therapy or to being on a wait-list (control group). The researchers found that acupuncture was similar to cognitive therapy in reducing symptoms of PTSD and that results lasted for three months after treatment ended. Acupuncture has also been shown in several studies to be comparable to anti-depressant medications in the treatment of depression.