Dr. Guadiani’s Lecture on Medical Complications of Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a lot more than a person being constantly worried about weight and appearance. Eating disorders are serious illnesses that can be life threatening in severe cases and require in-depth treatment to improve rates of survival. Medical complications that can arise from eating disorders should not be taken lightly. Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Silber Lecture, Medical Complications of Eating Disorders: Improving Recognition, Management, and Communication, at Children’s National. If your child, friend, or loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, continue reading to see what I learned from today’s lecture about medical complications of eating disorders.

Certified Eating Disorders Specialist (CEDS)

The presenter of this interesting talk was Dr. Guadiani, the medical director at ACUTE Center of Eating Disorders, in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Guadiani is an internal medicine physician who is also a Certified Eating Disorders Specialist (CEDS)—she is one of only two internal medicine physicians in the United States who have earned this designation. As the medical director of ACUTE, Dr. Guadiani oversees medical stabilization of high-risk patients struggling with severe eating disorders. 

Eating Disorders Lecture

Such an interesting lecture!

Dr. Guadiani’s talk focused on patients experiencing severe anorexia nervosa and binge eating/purging type anorexia nervosa and the medical complications that can result from dealing with these conditions. The lecture began with Dr. Guadiani introducing the concept of “Cave Girl Brain”, which is characterized by the slowing of metabolism during a period of chronic starvation, in an effort to save the remaining glucose stores for normal physiologic functions. When this occurs, growth and reproduction systems stop working properly, which can cause issues with growth and can cause regular menstrual cycles in women to stop. In these types of patients, it is typical to see heart rate slow to abnormally low levels during resting state and rapidly increase during movement. In addition, blood pressure significantly slows down, core temperature lowers, and fine hair may grow on the body. Other medical complications that were mentioned include delayed stomach emptying, constipation, colon damage due to long-term laxative use, muscle weakness, life-threatening low blood sugar, abnormal levels of liver enzymes, and decreased levels of all types of blood cells.

1:1 patient to dietitian ratio

Dr. Guadiani spoke about the high level of care that is received by the patients who are admitted to ACUTE. What I found most striking was the 1:1 patient to dietitian ratio at ACUTE, as oral nutrition is the usual way that patients receive calories at this treatment center. It was mentioned that almost all medical complications arising from an eating disorders can be resolved with adequate fluid, weight, and nutrition replenishment.

Dr. Guadiani

Dr. Guadiani was a great speaker!

The good news is that there is a lot of help and support for individuals who are dealing with eating disorders. There are many therapists, psychologists, dietitians, and physicians who are specially trained to treat patients suffering from eating disorders. It is important to identify an eating disorder as soon as possible, so the individual can receive the proper treatment and begin the road to recovery. The following list includes early warning signs that an individual may have an eating disorder or a disordered eating pattern:

Early warning signs of eating disorders:

  • Low self esteem
  • Constantly worrying about body image
  • Making food for others
  • Excessive exercising
  • Fear of eating in public
  • Dry skin, sunken cheeks and eyes
  • Feeling cold all the time
  • Growth of fine layer of body hair or hair loss
  • Consuming odd food combinations
  • Eating very little foods during mealtimes


If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, reach out  to us for more information


Blog reviewed and updated March 2020

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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients.  Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and  Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.