IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME & EATING DISORDERS: IS THERE A CONNECTION?
Eating disorders are mainly characterised by disordered eating behaviour, such as not eating during the day and binging at night, purging by vomiting or compulsive exercise, and laxative abuse. Such actions may induce digestive issues, as well as gut sensitivity.
WHAT IS IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)?
IBS is a disorder of the gastrointestinal system caused by digestive distress and an over-sensitive colon, known as the large intestine. Symptoms include:
- Lower abdomen pain
- Alternating constipation and diarrhoea
- Problems swallowing food, or heartburn
IBS can be caused by several factors, such as chronic stress or anxiety, poor nutrition, disrupted sleep patterns, over-sensitive gut nerves or family history. Symptoms tend to come and go over time, and can last for days, weeks or months.
IBS can be very frustrating to live with, impacting your quality of life and daily functioning. Sadly, IBS is usually a lifelong problem.
WHAT IS THE LINK BETWEEN IBS AND EATING DISORDERS?
Studies have found that gastrointestinal consequences are seen in people suffering from eating disorders, the most common of which being IBS. Present evidence suggests that IBS usually appears after the development of an eating disorder.
The link between IBS and Eating Disorders
IBS symptoms and gut dysfunction have been observed mostly in people with anorexia and bulimia, as a result of malnutrition, nutrient deficiency, and alternating between binging and self-induced vomiting. Psychological problems usually accompanying eating disorders, such as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive features, can worsen the severity of symptoms resulting in long lasting IBS.
The development of IBS in people suffering from eating disorders may delay their recovery from the illness, causing trouble with weight restoration and re-feeding, thus leading to the persistence of the disordered behaviour. IBS may exacerbate the fear of eating certain foods due to the physical discomfort that individuals experience following a meal.
Bloating is often confused with the experience of ‘feeling fat’ in eating disorders and can be a major obstacle to recovery.
How can we support you?
IBS symptoms can be reduced with consuming a balanced diet, the restoration of normal body weight and eating at the right time intervals. This could make the recovery process easier for people with eating disorders.
Our team of nutritionists, psychologists, and dieticians can teach you how to make health conscious eating choices and de-stress your life. The nutritional and psychology therapy we offer is a unique collaboration aimed to target both the physical and mental aspects of eating disorders.
- Keep track of the foods you are putting into your body and any symptoms you may experience that are tied to certain foods. Try to notice the connection between different foods and your IBS symptoms.
- Stay hydrated! Drinking lots of water can help digestion and makes your whole body function a little bit more smoothly.
- Try relaxing exercises like yoga, or aerobics like biking or walking. These can help alleviate tension and help with symptoms.
- Probiotics can improve the chemistry of your stomach and relieve any underlying gut sensitivity.
- Stress management is a huge part of reducing symptoms. Letting go of tension and making sure anxiety doesn’t get out of control combats the discomfort you may be feeling.
- Don’t skip meals! Eat on a regular schedule to create a routine.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods to prevent irritation and negative symptoms.
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