Purging through vomiting is a very common eating disorder behaviour for those suffering from bulimia nervosa and anorexia purging-type. Despite the temporary relief it provides, purging itself often leaves you feeling uncomfortable and unclean.
After each time, you’re wondering how you found yourself there again.
It’s hard. Hard on your mind and body.
Then begins the post purge ritual. A ritual that often lacks the compassion that you would show anyone else who had just been sick.
Bruising your teeth, hot baths/showers and drinking alcohol are amongst the most harmful things to do after being sick.
So what is the right thing to do after purging?
In this post, you’ll learn the 5-step post purge plan that I recommend to all my clients. These are:
Bicarbonate of soda mouth rinse
Rehydrate by replacing electrolytes
Change into something comfortable where possible
Eat something safe to help rebalance blood sugars
Use a positive distraction to calm the mind
At the end of the post, I have also added some important information on when to seek medical attention as well as who to reach out to if you need professional support.
Bicarbonate of Soda Mouth Rinse
Stomach acid weakens tooth enamel which is damaging to teeth, therefore, it’s important to neutralise the acid as soon as possible. Rinsing with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 200ml water will neutralize the hydrochloric stomach acid. If you don’t have bicarbonate of soda, plain water is better than nothing. However, bicarbonate of soda is the most effective solution due to its high PH concentration. Note: This is only for rinsing, not drinking. It’s also important to remember that brushing after vomiting will remove softened enamel. I recommend not brushing for at least an hour.
Rehydrate by Replacing Electrolytes
Vomiting is dehydrating due to the fluids and electrolytes lost in the process. This may also be exacerbated by other purging and compensatory behaviours such as exercise and laxative abuse. An electrolyte drink can help replace lost electrolytes and help rehydrate you. Here are some electrolyte drinks that you can have after being sick:
O.R.S Hydration Tablets with Electrolytes, Vegan, Gluten and Lactose-Free Formula (affiliate links):
O.R.S Blackcurrant: https://amzn.to/2S31KtR
O.R.S Lemon: https://amzn.to/336DFIK
O.R.S Orange: https://amzn.to/3jaKjmZ
Another solution is to take Dioralyte (affiliate link): Dioralyte: https://amzn.to/36d7Yzp
Follow the advice from the product manufacturer in regards to max dose a day. (as these may differ). Lastly, I would recommend avoiding acidic drinks such as fruit juice or lemon in water as these can be harsh on your tooth enamel.
Change into something comfortable where possible
Hot showers and baths often increase the feeling of faintness and disorientation. Moreover, they can cause sweating which will further dehydrate you. Instead of taking a hot shower or bath, freshen up by washing and moisturising your hands and face. Then, if possible, change into something comfortable. Opt for loose-fitting clothing that feels (especially if you’re feeling bloated).
Eat something you feel safe eating
As your blood sugars are low, try and eat something that feels safe for you as soon as you can to rebalance your blood sugars. Symptoms of low blood sugar include sweating, dizziness, feeling shaky, fast heartbeat and feeling confused. Helpful foods include something that provides some carbohydrates such as rice cakes, popcorn, toast, crackers, oatcakes, chocolate, some biscuits or a banana. Take it easy for at least 15-20 minutes as it may take a while for your blood sugars to pick up. In the meantime, you can engage in some positive distractions.
Here are some of my favourite positive distractions.
Each Line, One Breath
Artist John Franzen demonstrates how he draws each line with one breath. It is a wonderful mindfulness practice. He explains more in this video below:
Draw your favourite song
I got this exercise from a wonderful book called Essential Art Therapy Exercises: Effective Techniques to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD.
Play your favourite song and use coloured pencils and a large piece of paper to express the sounds that you hear.
Listen to a meditation
The following free playlist accompanies the book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World:
The feedback I get about journaling is that it isn’t always easy to do despite it being helpful. When it comes to journaling, you can write or draw whatever you want. Here are a few options:
Make a list of everything you’d like to say no to.
Make a list of everything you’d like to say yes to.
Write a list of the smallest, most minor, most insignificant things in your life that you are grateful for.
What is the best advice you have ever heard/been given?
Write all the things you forgive yourself for.
When you should seek medical attention
If you vomit blood or have vomit that looks like ground coffee (a sign of internal bleeding), call 999 or go to A&E.
Who to call if you need emotional support
If you’re worried about your emotional state or are having suicidal thoughts, there are a number of helpful helplines who can provide support. If you aren’t able to get through to any of these lines and are feeling suicidal, call 999.
Samaritans: Call 116 123 (24/7)
Beat UK: 0808 801 0677 (9 am to 8 pm on weekdays and 4 pm to 8 pm on weekends and bank holidays).
Childline: 0800 1111 (7:30 am-midnight from Monday to Friday, or from 9 am-midnight at weekends).
Be Gentle With Yourself
Recovering from an Eating Disorder is not an easy process. Therefore, it takes a while to understand, challenge and overcome behaviours like purging. Recovery is not linear, so there will be times where you feel like you're moving backwards. Keep at it, recovery is possible (yes, for you too).