Food aversion vs. anorexia: What’s the difference?

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Published January 23, 2013

| FoxNews.com

I was asked to explain the difference between anorexia nervosa and food aversion in pregnancy.  Many folks may be wondering about this topic since Princess Kate Middleton is being treated with hypnotherapy in order to deal with her food aversion during this pregnancy.

First, let’s clear things up: The Duchess of Cambridge does not have anorexia.  What she’s suffering from is the same thing millions of pregnant patients deal with – especially in the first and early second trimester of pregnancy – which is morning sickness, hyperemesis and food aversions.

RELATED: Princess Kate undergoes hypnotherapy to treat food aversion

Food aversion is when certain foods make pregnant women uncomfortable.  These foods either makes them nauseous, or they hate the taste or they have problems swallowing them.  Therefore, they tend to avoid these foods as much as possible.

The problem comes when the food aversion is vast – in other words, you just can’t stomach anything.  In that particular scenario, the problem becomes how do you maintain adequate nutrition for yourself and the baby?  Common food aversions include milk, meat, eggs and certain vegetables.  So, the common theme for many pregnant women is to gravitate towards carbs – such as pastas, rice, bread, cookies and cake.

In this case, we have a nutritional challenge.  The first thing I do with my patients is ask them when these food aversions occur.  Most of the time they tell me it happens in the kitchen when they start cooking.  So I give them a simple solution: Stop cooking! Get out of the kitchen.  This way, they don’t have to see or smell the food before it gets onto their plate.  So ladies, train your husband, or anyone else who loves you, to help you out in the kitchen.

Other options pregnant women should consider are food substitutes.  If you can’t stand meat or poultry, you might want to consider vegetable proteins, like beans and soy.  If you worry about not getting enough milk, you can get calcium from other sources like cheese and yogurt.  And of course, you can always take a supplement.

Lastly, there are some homeopathic treatments you might want to consider, including some certain herbal teas like mint and ginger.  Acupuncture is very good for helping you open up your appetite as well.

When it comes to anorexia nervosa, that is a completely different disorder.  Anorexia is a mental eating disorder, in which a patient will intentionally starve his or herself.  This kind of nutritional starvation can lead the individual to become severely underweight; and the loss of essential proteins and nutrients from your body, which can endanger the normal function of your organs – especially your kidneys.  If not stopped or treated in time, anorexia ultimately can kill you.

With anorexia, the patient usually is afflicted with a very negative self-image, extreme anxiety and a total obsession with their size and weight.  This is a condition that requires intense professional therapy to help deal with the mental aspects of the disorder, as well as the involvement of behavioral therapists and nutritionists.

The connection between food aversion and anorexia should never be made.  While food aversion is usually temporary and tends to disappear, anorexia can be a problem that people deal with for a long period of time – and sometimes is discovered too late.

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