Electrolyte imbalance and bulimia

Richard Kerr's picture

Electrolyte imbalances can cause a wide range of symptoms ranging from muscle weakness, general feelings of weakness and tiredness, constipation, cloudy thinking, and then in severe cases kidney damage, brain damage and cardiac arrhythmias that can result in sudden death.

There is a real risk of developing a life threatening electrolyte imbalance for anyone with bulimia!

The electrolyte system is very sensitive and the slightest drop in its level of vital minerals can lead to an imbalance.


    An electrolyte imbalance can occur when you purge by self induced vomiting or taking laxatives putting your body in a state of severe dehydration.

  • Electrolytes work with the nervous system to send messages throughout the body.  They act to promote healthy teeth, joints and bones, nerve and muscle impulses, normal kidneys, heart functioning and blood sugar levels. They also work to provide the delivery of oxygen to the cells.
  • Electrolyte imbalances are common in people with bulimia but for unknown reasons not all people with bulimia will develop these imbalances
  • Often dangerously low potassium levels can go undetected, and it is not uncommon for someone with an electrolyte imbalance to not experience any of the lesser symptoms. So even if you feel fine, you may not be.
  • In cases of dangerously low potassium levels oral supplements are often prescribed in order to protect heart function. Although over the counter supplements are available it is vital that you do not try to correct a potential imbalance without seeking the advice of a professional because potassium can easily reach toxic levels.



Health Warning

REMEMBER: The electrolyte system is very sensitive, a slightest drop in its level of vital minerals can lead to an electrolyte imbalance. 

If this takes place you can suffer from irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), heart failure and even death.

Purging also removes iron from the body. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, causing fatigue, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath and can increase the chances of catching infection.


The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.


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