Are you having gut health issue? Did you have a restrictive relationship with food in the past?Oct 27, 2022
Eating disorders are really complicated and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to heal myself and now I can help clients to heal… because the recovery can be even more complicated. Not only can eating disorders be difficult to treat, but (unlike some other mental health conditions), they affect the body as well as the mind. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and I’ve had to heal my whole self in order to recover fully—including, surprisingly, my gut health.
Nowadays, I have clients who come to me because they feel supported by the fact that I too struggled with disordered eating and overcame it, AND they’re also trying to heal a gut health issue. What they don’t recognize is that the two are interconnected.
Throughout my healing and now my coaching, I’ve met clients who deal with incontinence, who required low fiber diets, or who had been under doctor’s care for severe constipation. For me, it was a severe overgrowth of Candida. It was so bad that my GI symptoms severely interfered with my daily life and I needed to be prescribed supplements and drastically changed my diet. For some, it’s just mild constipation or acid reflux they deal with.
Research shows that I’m not alone. Up to 98 percent of people who have an eating disorder meet the criteria for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, conditions that impact how the digestive tract functions. The most prevalent issue among women with a history of disordered eating is irritable bowel syndrome which is just a catch-all term for digestive concerns that don’t meet the criteria of conditions such as Crohn’s disease or inflammatory bowel disease.
So if you’ve had an eating disorder or disordered eating habits in the past, it’s important that you know that your eating habits over time can damage your entire digestive tract. Restricting food intake like with anorexia, bingeing, avoiding food groups, and purging—whether through laxatives or vomiting—all harm your digestion. Even if you’re not diagnosed with a full-blown eating disorder, the restrict/binge cycle often caused by chronic dieting can also cause harm.
When you restrict food intake (which is what happens with disordered eating), the gut immediately suffers. You have two types of organs in your body: the vital organs and the non-vital organs. Your heart, lungs, and kidneys are considered “vital” (meaning you can’t live without them), while organs like those in the GI tract are considered less vital. If you don’t give yourself the appropriate amount of calories, there will be a prioritization of nutrients, and they go to the vital organs first, as a way to keep you alive. Restricting food starves your gut, which can lead to serious health problems. Not eating enough food in general, or cutting way back on certain food groups, can disrupt your stomach’s good bacteria. This bacterial imbalance can affect one’s immune system and can contribute to symptoms of IBS or IBD. Restriction can also lead to gastroparesis, where the stomach no longer properly contracts to break down food, delaying the digestive process. Gastroparesis can present itself as nausea or acid reflux after eating, or your fullness hormones being disturbed. Additionally, malnourishment can affect this, since your body is trying to preserve nutrients for more important functions, such as your circulatory system. Finally, the latest research shows that patients with eating disorders are also at risk for more severe conditions such as pancreatitis, ulcers, liver failure, colitis, and fatty liver disease. These conditions are often the result of malnutrition, purging, and binging.
The good news?
You CAN heal.
Eliminating MORE foods is typically not the solution to fixing gut health issues when you’ve had an ED. It takes working with a professional to manage anxiety and get back to eating foods that you enjoy, and your gut will thank you for that.
It takes a decision to want it. It takes BIG changes with your relationship with food, movement, and stress.
In doing so you’re not only healing your digestive system but also healing so many other areas of your physical body and creating a more joyful relationship with food and your body.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your healing from the inside out, email me [email protected]