Bulimia/Eating Disorders/hypotension after purging


I have been bulimic since I was 19, I am 43 now. I am very interested in the effects of a binge and purge episode, has on one's blood pressure, blood sugar level, brain chemistry. I would typically binge at night when my roommate was asleep, so i would simply just go to bed after purging. I notice though that if I B and P during the day, I would become very spacy, relaxed, and it would seem that I would have to make an effort just to not act like a complete ragdoll. I figure that the purging would cause hypotension. If I had to get going I felt the need to eat just to feel normal again even though i had no desire to eat. If I didn't eat and had to do something physical, I would get horrible tremors and nausea. What is happening here?

Hi Rick!

I am so sorry you are going through this. Purging is very hard on your heart, as is bingeing - although for slightly different reasons. I'll discuss each in turn.

- when you binge on foods high in saturated fat --> may cause your arteries to constrict & stiffen and blood to clot --> leads to heart problems down the road if you do this often

- Low levels of vital minerals like potassium, sodium, and magnesium --> electrolyte imbalance --> can lead to extreme weakness, near paralysis, irregular heart beat, weakening of the heart muscle, heart failure, low pulse and blood pressure
- Dehydration --> heart palpitations, weakness

As to your other questions:
Blood sugar level - when you are hungry, one of the hormones your body produces is insulin; individuals who binge and purge tend to over-produce insulin, making you more likely to binge when you eat. Then when you purge, your insulin levels fall drastically - more so than in a person who doesn't binge and purge. This can set you up for another purge. In addition, low blood sugar (low levels of insulin) will cause the tremors and nausea you feel when you don't eat and try to do something physical.

Brain chemistry - this is going to seem like a laundry list, but it is... frequent bingeing and purging alters your neuroendocrine system, so your body can change the way it produces the neurochemicals that regulate a variety of your body's systems, including:

   Sexual function

   Physical growth and development

   Appetite and digestion


   Heart function

   Kidney function




In other words, everything you are describing is common in people who binge and purge frequently.

I hope this makes sense. Please let me know if you have any further questions or if you would like me to suggest resources for you to seek treatment - I can recommend a therapist or provide you with on-line self-help resources.  

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Mary Pritchard, PhD


I can answer questions about the psychology of eating, disordered eating attitudes and behaviors such as drive for thinness, drive for muscularity, binge eating, body dysmorphia, dieting, excessive/obsessive exercise, and body dissatisfaction. I can also answer questions about anorexia and bulimia.


I have a PhD in Psychology and teach courses in the Psychology of Health and the Psychology of Eating. I have been conducting research on disordered eating and exercise behaviors for 15 years.

Midwestern psychological association, rocky mountain psychological association

Over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles in journals such as Eating Behaviors, Eating Disorders, and Eating and Weight Disorders

PhD in Psychology from the University of Denver

Awards and Honors
30 teaching awards, have received funding to conduct my research from academic institutions and state and local government

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