Bulimia can complicate kambo treatment. Image Source: Flickr user Kevin Corredor.

My friend wanted to take kambo because she heard it could reduce her frequent migraines. She had the number of a practitioner, had researched the medicine, and was ready to try it. Just one thing was giving her pause; she was a recovering bulimic. She hadn’t binged and purged in years, but like addiction, eating disorders stay with you for your entire life. She came to me wanting to know if it was safe to take kambo and whether she would have to tell the practitioner about her past.

In general, kambo is not used to treat eating disorders and should not be used if you are actively bingeing and purging. But there are anecdotal accounts of kambo helping people deal with their eating disorder. If you are using kambo to address other issues—like my friend’s migraines—and you have struggled with an eating disorder, kambo may bring awareness to your eating disorder and help you overcome any lingering psychological issues. Some people view kambo as a way of achieving a final purge that allows them to release their guilt; others say kambo has helped them recognize the harm purging has done to their bodies; and some people report that kambo jump-started their digestive system, allowing them to experience the sensation of being full more clearly when eating. But an eating disorder will complicate your kambo treatment, so you should take steps to ensure your psychological and physical safety.

You May Not Be a Candidate for Kambo

Bulimia can cause several long-term health effects that last even after you have stopped binging and purging. Some of these effects—such as high blood pressure, a weakened heart, and inefficient kidneys—can make it dangerous for you to use kambo. Kambo temporarily increases heart rate, which can lead to a heart attack in people with weakened cardiovascular systems. It also makes the kidneys work harder to filter toxins from your body, so if your kidneys cannot keep up with this extra demand, you may suffer from a buildup of toxins and potential kidney failure. You may need blood tests and a stress test to assess the current health of your cardiovascular and renal systems and determine whether you can safely take this medicine.

Some long-term effects of bulimia can make a kambo ceremony uncomfortable. Kambo can cause forceful diarrhea, which may exacerbate hemorrhoids developed due to excessive laxative use. Increased stomach acid during the ceremony can also irritate stomach ulcers. In short, an eating disorder will not automatically make you ineligible for kambo treatment, but it may make your treatment riskier or less comfortable. You should discuss your eating disorder with a doctor and your kambo guide before trying kambo for the first time.

Tell Your Guide If You Have an Eating Disorder

It can be uncomfortable and even frightening to admit to a stranger that you struggle with an eating disorder, but you absolutely need to tell your practitioner if you have an eating disorder, with as much detail as you feel comfortable sharing. Besides the health risks associated with bulimia and kambo use, there are also potential psychological triggers. Some kambo practitioners will encourage manual stimulation of purging, for instance, which can bring back difficult memories and feelings for participants with bulimia.

If your practitioner knows you suffer from bulimia, they can adjust your kambo session to meet your needs. They may urge you to focus on the urge to purge without actually reaching the point of extensive purging. They may offer more intense, thorough after-care for you in case the experience brings up negative memories or give you a one-on-one session to walk you through the process more carefully, stopping the session if you show signs of psychological or physical distress.

It is common for people to hear about kambo through word-of-mouth, so you may be worried that your kambo practitioner works with other people in your social circle who you do not want knowing about your eating disorder. But keep in mind that most practitioners will not share your personal information with others, and you can also find a practitioner who is not in your social circle. If you live in the San Francisco Bay area, the staff at Psychedelic Times can help you find a kambo practitioner with experience working with people with eating disorders.

Don’t Administer Kambo Yourself

The kambo purge is beneficial because it clears your body of toxins by encouraging sweating, vomiting, and defecation. But if you are bulimic, kambo could easily become part of your eating disorder if you regularly use it for purging. Because of this, you should only use kambo if you feel solid in your recovery and recognize the risks of slipping back into your binging and purging behavior.

Although it is possible to purchase and apply kambo yourself, you should not do so if you are bulimic—even if it has been years since you were an active bulimic. Allowing an experienced practitioner to apply the medicine will remove the temptation of overusing it as a purging tool, and by giving up control of the medicine to an experienced practitioner, the kambo ritual can better address any deep issues of control, shame, and power.

Work Closely With a Therapist

You should not use any purging medicines (kambo or ayahuasca) without carefully considering how your eating disorder will affect your ceremony and how the ceremony may affect your eating disorder. For this reason, you may need the assistance of a psychedelic therapist to help you prepare for your ceremony and process it afterward.

A psychedelic therapist can help you center your bulimia as one of the main issues you want to concentrate on during the ceremony. They may help you prepare by setting healthy boundaries and deciding on an appropriate dose and frequency of application. After the ceremony, you may want to follow-up with your psychedelic therapist, especially if you had significant insights into your eating disorder. Even if your experience was positive, it can help to share your feelings with a psychedelic therapist who can assist you with integrating your experience into your everyday life.

Kambo is a powerful medicine, and it can help people with a variety of diseases and disorders—but it is not appropriate for all people. If you have an eating disorder, you will likely have to take extra precautions before and after your kambo ceremony, and you may even not be able to take kambo at all. Knowing your limitations is an important aspect of safe psychedelic therapy, so if you are unsure whether kambo is right for you, you should discuss the medicine with a psychedelic therapist.