Learn about chewing and spitting eating disorders

Among the lesser-known and less-studied eating disorders, there are Chewing and spittingThis behavior involves chewing a very delicious and energy-dense food, then spitting it out instead of swallowing it.

The purpose of chewing and spitting is to enjoy the taste of food without taking in calories. Chewing and spitting are similar to overeating because it involves more high-calorie foods than expected. It also has elements of restrictive diet, because the food is not actually consumed.

Chewing and spitting in DSM-5

Initially, spitting was considered an alternative method of purification. Therefore, this behavior is mainly studied in individuals with bulimia nervosa.In the previous version Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), chewing and spitting are listed as unspecified underlying symptoms of eating disorders (EDNOS).

In DSM-5, the diagnosis of EDNOS is replaced by other specific types of feeding and eating disorders (OSFED). However, DSM-5 does not list chewing and spitting as any single disease, because this behavior may occur in the diagnosis of other eating disorders.

Chewing and spitting can be seen in patients diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or other specific eating disorders.

Potential cause

Eating disorders affect people from all walks of life. Studies have shown that people with a family history of eating disorders are more likely to develop the disease, but genetics does not always play a role.

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The focus on body image and the desire for control are often related to eating disorders, such as chewing and spitting. Other mental disorders, such as anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, or drug abuse, may also be accompanied by eating habits and more serious symptoms-including suicidal ideation.

Medical consequences

Although this seems to be a relatively benign habit compared to other disorderly behaviors such as vomiting, the physical consequences of chewing and spitting can be serious. Some of the health effects of chewing and spitting include:

  • Dental problems: frequent contact with sugary foods can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Stomach problems: Chewing triggers the production of stomach acid, but then there is no food to digest. This may cause ulcers or acid reflux.
  • Weight gain: This is a surprising side effect of chewing and spitting behavior. Researchers suspect this is related to overeating later in the day.

Patients should see a doctor and dentist to discuss potential treatment options for gastrointestinal, hormonal, and dental problems. Appropriate mental health support can help reduce further physical and mental harm.

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Diagnosis and treatment

The shame and stigma associated with chewing and spitting can be a barrier to seeking treatment. As with other eating disorders, psychotherapy and nutritional counseling can help. Diagnosing an eating disorder requires a health professional to evaluate the following factors:

  • Body image problems, including thoughts and opinions about food and other possible symptoms of eating disorders (such as overeating or abuse of laxatives)
  • Current eating habits, including the amount and type of food eaten and dietary patterns
  • Medical history, including any drug abuse, mental health problems, current medications, and weight changes
  • Other lifestyle factors, including exercise habits, menstrual cycle, and stress level

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to treat eating disorders including chewing and spitting. Components may include admitting shame, challenging eating rules, managing emotional distress, and improving flexibility.

The CBT strategy used to address chewing and spitting behavior is similar to the strategy used for other eating disorders. The focus of these strategies is to challenge a person’s irrational thoughts, including fear of food, fear of weight gain, and concerns about body image.

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Advice for family members

If a loved one shows signs of eating disorders, it can be helpful to know what behaviors they are engaged in. You may notice certain symptoms, such as:

  • Discolored or stained teeth
  • Excessive and rigid exercise behavior
  • Fear of eating in public or with others
  • Focus on weight and diet
  • Food in the pantry disappears abnormally
  • Wear loose clothes to hide the appearance
  • Weight change

Chewing and spitting may be symptoms of a larger eating disorder. Talk to your loved ones about your concerns and encourage them to accept the help of qualified professionals. Avoid offering criticism or judgment, but instead focus on showing them how much you care about their happiness.

Very good sentence

Chewing and spitting may not seem like a big deal, but these are signs of a disorder with food. If you or someone you care about chewing and spitting, it is best to seek treatment before your behavior continues to deteriorate. There are many ways to find peace with food and body image. Sometimes, we only need a little extra help and support to start moving in the right direction.


Learn about chewing and spitting eating disorders
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