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Eating disorders and IBD

Eating disorders and IBD

Eating disorders and IBD are linked in a two fold relationship.  Nutrient deficiencies and depression in IBD can lead to abnormal eating habits and obsessions.

Up until recently, most people gravely misunderstood eating disorders, their causes, and treatment.  Body issues and problems with food occur in men, women, and kids.  As a result, taking the steps to treat and prevent these problems from developing coexisting relationships can prevent the long term negative effects.

Patients with IBD are at risk for developing eating disorders.   Similarly, abnormal eating habits and eating disorders cause life threatening consequences that may be long term such as IBD.

Eating disorders signs & symptoms

The signs and symptoms of eating disorders are not always obvious.  The most common image of problems around food is shaped around an ideal body type.  However, some symptoms associated with Crohn’s and Colitis such as abdominal pain after eating, vomiting, and feeling guilty or bad about certain choices coexist with disordered eating.

  • poor appetite
  • severe dehydration from lack of fluids or having vomited them
  • acid reflux and other gastrointestinal problems


How to tell IBD apart from eating disorders

While IBD and eating disorders may cause or worsen each other, its important to tell them apart.   There isn’t an easy way to distinguish regular flare symptoms from an unhealthy relationship with food other than by monitoring food intake, emotion towards meals, and other attitudes in yourself or loved one.

How eating disorders damage the digestive tract

Lack of adequate nutrition takes a toll on the body.  All eating disorders and abnormal eating habits are bad for your mental, emotional, and physical health.  In anorexia, there is a distorted body image and fear of gaining weight.

As a result, people with anorexia engage in obsessive behaviors that damage the gi tract to avoid gaining weight.  For instance, depriving the body of food severely (not related to fasting, medical treatment or preparation, religion, etc.) affects production of hormones, vitamins, and other compounds required for a healthy digestive process.

Likewise, constant vomiting as seen in bulimia causes damage to the teeth, esophagus, and disrupts hydrochloric acid production.  The throat, salivary glands, and esophagus are also damaged.  The stomach, and intestine go through harsh conditions sometimes as a result of laxatives and other things taken to make food pass through and leave the body sooner.  Additionally, hemorrhoids and perianal issues arise from prolonged sitting or straining in hopes of purging food from the body.

Essentially, the digestive tract is one long system working together and damage to one area affects the rest of the body and digestive process.  IBD and eating disorders make a deadly



Major causes of eating disorders

Eating disorders have to do with  much more than food.  The causes of eating disorders are harder to  pinpoint and differ among type of eating disorder.

Psychological, social, biological and interpersonal problems are listed as main causes of eating disorders listed at nationaleatingdisorders.org

  • social pressures
  • feelings of lack of control
  • depression, stress

IBD linked to eating disorders

Flares and medications sometimes cause frequent changes in our body.  It’s important to be patient and kind.  Many times, extreme weight loss dehydration and low food intake occur as a result of a flare.  Other times, medications cause bloating, weight gain/loss, and other symptoms.  These frequent changes affect body image.  Ideal health profiles seem distant to many patients.  As a result, you must actively pursue a positive mindset and body image.  Otherwise, being underweight, eating smaller than normal portions, and other habits associated with disordered eating become normal behavior.

Types of eating disorders

  • Binge Eating
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS)

The reason it is difficult to diagnose eating disorders and especially identify them is because of how they differ among people.  Although there are widely recognized forms of eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, night eating, etc. there are also other forms of disordered eating that don’t have a name.  Sometimes, symptoms overlap within a few types of eating disorders.  Meanwhile, at other times very specific characteristics point to problems with food.  It becomes an even stickier and more difficult subject when talking about IBD and eating disorders because of this symptom overlap.

Avoidant or restrictive disorder + IBD

Patients with IBD are susceptible to avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID).

Healthline describes it as a new name for an old disorder.  It replaces “feeding disorder of infancy and early childhood”.  Previously, this diagnosis was held for kids under 7 years old.  Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, recognizes this as one of the forms of GAPS.  The term was coined as an umbrella term when she noticed many of her patients suffering from mental disorders were fussy eaters since childhood.  Her research linked problems with proper food intake to depression, and gastrointestinal diseases.  People with this disorder restrict food intake because of textures, flavor, smell, and appearance of foods.


Treating eating disorders involves a well rounded plan that is customized to each person’s needs.  First, it is important to recognize that eating disorders are very real and can be effectively treated.  For instance, eating disorder treatment involving therapy and counseling may not be enough.  Gut and Psychology Syndrome GAPS, states that gut problems, anxiety and issues with food are all related.  Thus, they can be treated together to rid the body of the toxins that promote depression, poor appetite and other symptoms that contribute to eating disorders and IBD.

Research shows that social, genetic, and biological factors contribute.  Doctors recommend, awareness and gentle detox to make the healing process easy instead of shocking and traumatic.


Eating disorders and IBD overview

This information is meant to provide a better understanding of the most common eating disorders and the relationship with developing or worsening IBD.  They are real disorders and come with serious physical, mental, and emotional damage. Eating disorders and IBD increase risk of severe complications including death and damage to the organs.

If you have or know somebody with problems with food intake and are concerned about developing IBD seek help from  a healthcare professional that specializes in healing issues around food.

If you have IBD or know someone that does you may be concerned about the long term effect being unhealthy habits and an unspecified eating disorder.  Treat IBD first because many of the characteristics and modalities can be caused by active disease in the bowel that that causes lack of hunger, trouble keeping food down, and poor digestion.

2018-06-01T18:41:26+00:00By |0 Comments

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