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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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What is bulimia bloat?

Bulimia bloat is not a medical term, but it is frequently used to describe the distended (swollen) belly that commonly occurs in people who are struggling with or in recovery from bulimia nervosa (BN). 

Like most cases of bloating, the issue is usually the consequence of excess gas in the digestive tract, which can have a number of causes. Bloating related to BN can also be physically painful, and a potential psychological hazard, particularly for those in eating disorder recovery, as the discomfort and swollen stomach can evoke negative emotions around body image, food, and eating.

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86% of our patients reported an improved quality of life post treatment.

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But bulimia bloat is also one of the most easily treatable symptoms of BN, typically lasting for just a few weeks until eating patterns stabilize and the digestive system heals.

 minutes read
Last updated on 
August 16, 2023
August 16, 2023
Bulimia bloat
In this article
doctor with patient

Causes of bulimia bloat

Bloating is one of the most common gastrointestinal (GI) effects associated with BN, often occurring among a suite of other GI issues, such as indigestion, feelings of fullness, and abdominal pain.1

Due to the disordered eating patterns involved in BN, there are a number of ways the condition can lead to bloating.

Binge eating and purging episodes
Highly processed foods and insufficient nutrients
Pancreatic issues
Pancreatic issues
Too many high fiber foods
Water retention

How does bulimia bloat differ from regular bloating? 

Physiologically, "bulimia bloating" represents the same GI complications that occur in people who do not have the eating disorder.14 But it's the cause of these issues that generally separates bulimia bloat from regular bloating.

People without BN may also struggle with constipation, eat highly processed foods, have certain food allergies or sensitivities, and experience pancreas issues and all the other issues responsible for bloating. But ultimately, these problems don’t come from the same complications presented in BN and are, for the most part, a short-term issue for someone without bulimia nervosa.

Someone with BN is more likely to consistently struggle with these issues, as they can frequently arise from the disordered eating behaviors associated with the condition. And someone with BN is more likely to develop GI issues in general than someone without the condition.


How to treat bulimia bloat and ease discomfort

Thankfully, treating bulimia bloat is relatively easy. It generally requires patience and a consistent diet more than anything.

Over time, the body naturally gets rid of excess gas in the digestive tract by burping or passing it out through the rectum. This can help alleviate bloating symptoms relatively quickly and effortlessly.

Some herbal teas can help jumpstart this natural process. Tea involving peppermint or lemon have been found particularly helpful for alleviating gas. And products with ginger can also help move along the digestive process and ease digestive discomfort in general.10,11,12,13

However, the best way to treat bulimia bloat is to address the bulimia nervosa itself. Stabilizing eating patterns and building an overall healthier diet and lifestyle helps alleviate or eliminate nearly all of the digestive distress BN can cause.

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Through our supported meals, we help you become reacquainted with your body’s hunger and fullness, and to respond appropriately to those cues

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Finding help for bulimia nervosa

If you or a loved one are struggling with bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa (AN), or another eating disorder, it's important to seek out help.

It's generally best to turn to medical professionals who specialize in eating disorders, to ensure all the underlying psychological issues driving the disorder are attended to, as well as the physical symptoms.

Your primary care doctor, therapist, or another trusted professional are a great place to start. They may be able to help you secure an official diagnosis or guide you through your next best steps.

You can also reach out to us at Within Health. Our team of multidisciplinary experts can help address the physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of a serious mental health condition like BN, personalizing a treatment plan that's right for you. And our unique program helps ensure you get that tailored help all without having to leave home.

Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.


  1. Sato, Y., Fukudo, S. (2015). Gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders in patients with eating disorders. Clinical Journal of Gastroenterology, 8, 255-263. 
  2. Forney, K. J., Buchman-Schmitt, J. M., Keel, P. K., & Frank, G. K. (2016). The medical complications associated with purging. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 49(3), 249–259.
  3. The Western Diet and Bloating. (2020, March 30). News Medical Life Sciences. Accessed August 2023.
  4. Keel, P., Eckle, L., Hildebrandt, B., Haedt-Matt, A., Murry, D., Appelbaum, J., Jimerson, D. (2021). Disentangling the links between gastric emptying and binge eating v. purging in eating disorders using a case-control design. Psychological Medicine, 15(5). 
  5. Gastroparesis. (n.d.). Yale Medicine. Accessed August 2023. 
  6. Morris, L. G., Stephenson, K. E., Herring, S., & Marti, J. L. (2004). Recurrent acute pancreatitis in anorexia and bulimia. Journal of the Pancreas, 5(4), 231–234.
  7. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI). (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. Accessed August 2023. 
  8. West, M. (2021, September 29). What foods and drinks can reduce bloating? Medical News Today. Accessed August 2023. 
  9. Anderson, K. (2022, January 7). Edema in Eating Disorder Recovery: Causes, Prevention and Treatment. Acute Center for Eating Disorders and Malnutrition. Accessed August 2023.
  10. McKay, D. L., & Blumberg, J. B. (2006). A review of the bioactivity and potential health benefits of peppermint tea (Mentha piperita L.). Phytotherapy Research, 20(8), 619–633.
  11. Miraj, S., Rafieian-Kopaei, & Kiani, S. (2017). Melissa officinalis L: A Review Study With an Antioxidant Prospective. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine, 22(3), 385–394.
  12. Drobnic, F., Fonts, S., García-Alday, I., Petrangolini, G., Riva, A., Frattini, E., Allegrini, P., Togni, S., & Vitale, J. (2022). Efficacy of artichoke and ginger extracts with simethicone to treat gastrointestinal symptoms in endurance athletes: a pilot study. Minerva gastroenterology, 68(1), 77–84. 
  13. Lazzini, S., Polinelli, W., Riva, A., Morazzoni, P., & Bombardelli, E. (2016). The effect of ginger (Zingiber officinalis) and artichoke (Cynara cardunculus) extract supplementation on gastric motility: a pilot randomized study in healthy volunteers. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, 20(1), 146–149.
  14. Abraham, S., & Kellow, J. E. (2013). Do the digestive tract symptoms in eating disorder patients represent functional gastrointestinal disorders? BMC Gastroenterology, 13, 38.
  15. Bjorlie, K., Forbush, K. T., Chapa, D. A. N., Richson, B. N., Johnson, S. N., & Fazzino, T. L. (2022). Hyper-palatable food consumption during binge-eating episodes: A comparison of intake during binge eating and restricting. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 55(5), 688–696.
  16. Wolf, J. (2023, March 31). Harvard gut doctor: These 8 foods will make you feel bloated—here’s what to eat instead. NBC News. Accessed August 2023.


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Further reading

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