How to help eating disorders and IBS style symptoms.

Eating disorders and IBS are something that can go hand in hand and makes recovery even more tricky. Perhaps you struggle with bloating after meals and abdominal pain. Or maybe you are finding it difficult to tolerate lactose, beans and pulses or certain vegetables, but know it is not good to cut foods out. Your bowels may alternate from diarrhea to constipation, there can be gurgling noises in your tummy and all of it makes it harder to eat. These symptoms can annoyingly be common in eating disorder recovery.

In this blog we are going to look at how disordered eating can impact your gut and look at some strategies to help.

The Gut microbiome and Disordered Eating

How eating Disorders can affect your gut health:

Restrictive Eating for instance, can result in an imbalance in the gut microbiome. This is due to us needing to firstly keep topping up the levels of beneficial bacteria and some of these come from our diet. Then we also need to feed those bacteria too, with the foods we eat. So by not eating enough and not having a diverse diet the balance of gut bacteria is affected. Not having enough food in your system can also affect your bowel motions, leading to a slower passage through the system. It makes sense doesn’t it, with less food to pass through, it will be harder work.

It’s not just restriction that can cause an impact. Binge eating can also affect the microbiome. If you suffer from episodes over overeating large amounts of food in a short time, this can affect your gut bacteria too. It can cause a rollercoaster effect, leading to symptoms such as bloating and reflux. Purging after eating (make yourself sick) or using laxatives can also affect your gut microbiome. It can disrupt the levels of those all important gut bacteria.

Dietary Factors that can affect Eating Disorders and IBS Symptoms

Lets think about the dietary factors that could affect your gut symptoms in recovery:

  1. Food Choices: For those with eating disorders, specific food choices can trigger certain behaviours or emotions. For example, someone with anorexia might avoid high-calorie foods, while someone with binge eating disorder might struggle with overeating certain types of foods. With IBS, certain foods like spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, dairy, or high-fibre foods can aggravate symptoms like bloating, gas, and abdominal pain. This is where working with a specialist dietitian can be really helpful as they can help you tweak your food plan without over restriction of foods.
  2. Dietary Restrictions: People with eating disorders often have strict dietary restrictions, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and exacerbate IBS symptoms. Whist the low FODMAP is sometimes recommended in IBS this is not something to follow if you have disordered eating or an eating disorder. A specialist dietitian will be able to help you make smaller changes one at a time instead.
  3. How You eat: Eating fast, not really chewing your food, skipping meals and being distracted when you eat can make your IBS symptoms worse. So during recovery focus on chewing well, having regular meals and snacks and eating in a mindful way can help.
  4. Helpful Aids: If you feel bloated and uncomfortable after eating try these: Foxes Glacier mints or a mint tea, a hot water bottle, some deep breathing and a calming activity, urge surfing.

Other Factors that impact Eating Disorders and IBS Symptoms:

Your mood and sleep:

Things that can help?

  • Regular meals including enoough protein. Tryptophan is an amino acid that your body uses to make serotonin. Foods like turkey, chicken, eggs, cheese, nuts, seeds, tofu, and salmon are all good sources of tryptophan. Pairing these foods with carbohydrates can help increase tryptophan uptake in the brain.
  • Sunlight exposure helps stimulate the production of serotonin. Aim to spend some time outdoors, especially in the morning, to soak up those rays. If you live in a place with limited sunlight, consider using a light therapy box.
  • Practices like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and promote relaxation, thus indirectly supporting serotonin production.
  • Social connection and support from friends, family, or support groups can positively impact mood and serotonin levels. Surround yourself with positive influences and people who uplift you.
How mood and sleep can affect serotonin levels in IBS and eating disorder recovery

Stress and Anxiety:

How stress and anxiety can affect IBS in eating disorder recovery

Nutrient absorption and energy regulation:

How a healthy gut microbioms is crucial for you to be able to absorb and use the nutrients you eat

Keeping the Microbial Harmony:

Diversity really is key. This is where meal planning can help. Fill your plate with a mix of fibre, fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Probiotics and prebiotics, an explanation of what these are,
Stress Less to help your gut microbes
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