Vocabulary for Eating Disorders & Nutritional Problems

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  • 0:01 Misconstrued Terms
  • 0:26 Eating Disorders
  • 3:32 Nutritional Problems
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Lots of eating disorders and nutritional problems go hand-in-hand, but this lesson will define different kinds separately from one another. These include anorexia, cachexia, bulimia, obesity, and more.

Misconstrued Terms

What is anorexia? If you think the word refers exclusively to an eating disorder stemming from a distorted perception of one's own body image, you're not correct. A lot of medical terms have become slightly misconstrued for public use, and anorexia is one of them. You'll learn the true meaning of anorexia, as well as other terms related to eating disorders and nutritional problems, right here.

Eating Disorders

Anorexia, in the truest sense of this word, is a lack of or a loss of appetite for food; an aversion to food. This word comes from 'an-,' which means without or not, and '-orexia,' which means a condition of the appetite. As an example, anorexia could be found in a hospital patient who has any one of a number of diseases, like cancer, or is undergoing a treatment plan that makes them anything but hungry. Anorexia is a word that often implies the person isn't eating as a result of some sort of physical or physiological disease process.

Some individuals who lose a lot of weight secondary to an underlying disease become cachectic. Cachexia is a state of severe appetite loss, weight loss, and tissue wasting as a result of a chronic and severe disease, such as cancer, tuberculosis, or AIDS. The important thing to note about cachexia is that it often implies that even if the patient were to eat adequate or more than adequate amounts of calories, they will still lose weight as a result of the underlying disease process.

Without a doubt, the word anorexia is more commonly used as a simple and shortened substitute for anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by a distorted body image and fear of becoming obese alongside emaciation and an aversion to food. 'Emaciation' is a word that means someone has become abnormally thin. Anorexia nervosa is often found in adolescents, usually girls, and the origins of anorexia nervosa are typically not associated with any kind of medical disease process as per anorexia. However, anorexia nervosa can definitely lead to a host of medical problems owing to the starvation and nutritional deficiencies involved.

Another common eating disorder you've surely heard of is bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by repeated, usually secretive, bouts of binge eating followed by frequent fasting and excessive exercise and/or self-induced evacuation of the food via vomiting and laxatives. 'Bulimia' is a word that means hunger and implies an insatiable craving for food.

But if the person has an abnormal and compulsive craving for and eating of nonnutritive substances, such as dirt, clay, feces, and the like, for a period of at least one month and at a time in life at which such a behavior is developmentally inappropriate, then they have pica. No one is exactly sure why pica occurs. Who in their right mind would want to eat feces or paint chips or nails? Two big hypotheses for such ingestions are stress and nutritional deficiencies. As in, the person is so stressed out they chew and eat largely inedible objects, or they have a nutritional deficiency that causes their body to seek out abnormal sources of the nutrient they are missing.

Nutritional Problems

A lot of the eating disorders we just went over have nutritional problems associated with them. Nutritional problems in general include the likes of dehydration, malnutrition, malabsorption, and obesity. Dehydration is simply a state where fluid loss exceeds fluid intake, resulting in electrolyte imbalances. Electrolytes being stuff like sodium, potassium, and chloride. Of course, as you can imagine, dehydration is without a doubt most often followed by a feeling of thirst.

Malnutrition is a state of poor nourishment as a result of any number of causes, including a shortage of food, inappropriate eating habits, or a disease state that does not allow for the proper digestion or absorption of nutrients. Speaking of absorption, malabsorption is a term for the improper or impaired intestinal absorption of nutrients. This leads to excessive amounts of nutrients like carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to be found in the stool.

And, finally, the last nutritional problem I'd like to define is obesity, which is generally seen as an excessive and abnormal accumulation of body fat. If a person is so severely overweight, so much so that a disease state exists in the body where normal activity and physiological functions are seriously impaired, we call this state one of morbid obesity, where 'morbid' means diseased.

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