Previous studies showed that symptoms of oesophageal motor disorders can be misinterpreted as indicating anorexia nervosa and that in primary anorexia nervosa gastric motility is frequently impaired. We investigated in 32 women with bulimia nervosa whether symptoms of oesophageal motor disorders could be obscured by or be mistaken as forming part of bulimic behaviour, and whether impaired gastric motility was frequent as well. Oesophageal motility was normal in 18 of 26 patients studied, another four had incomplete lower oesophageal sphincter relaxation. Two patients had vigorous achalasia and each one achalasia and diffuse oesophageal spasm, all of whom experienced two types of vomiting: one self-induced and one involuntary, in which the vomit was non-acidic and tasted as the preceding meal. Gastric emptying of a semisolid meal was studied in all patients except of the eight with oesophageal motor abnormalities. Emptying was significantly slower than in healthy controls and grossly delayed in nine of 24 patients. Antral contraction amplitudes were lower and increased less postcibally than in controls. In conclusion (i) bulimic behaviour can obscure symptoms of oesophageal motor disorders and (ii) gastric emptying is frequently delayed in bulimia nervosa.
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