When Gut Issues Meet Unhealthy Food Obsession: A Vicious Cycle Begins

When Gut Issues Meet Unhealthy Food Obsession: A Vicious Cycle Begins

By: Destiny Howard, MS, RDN, LD

Today, we’re diving into the often overlooked connection between eating disorders and gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Now, before you click away, let us ask you this: Have you ever found yourself worrying over every meal and wondering constantly what food is “safe” or “okay” to eat? Maybe you’ve struggled with ‘food obsession’, counted calories religiously, or sworn off certain foods altogether in the pursuit of better health. If so, you’re not alone.

Sometimes, our GI symptoms can actually lead to hypervigilance with eating (meaning, it can make our food obsession even worse). 

Picture this: you’re dealing with chronic bloating or stomach pain, so you start cutting out certain foods in an attempt to ease your discomfort. At first, it seems to help, but before you know it, you’re avoiding entire food groups and living in fear of triggering another flare-up. Sound familiar?

What many people don’t realize is that these behaviors can quickly morph into something much more serious: a full-blown eating disorder. 

So, what are the warning signs that your food obsession might be tipping into eating disorder territory? Take a look at some red-flag eating disorder behaviors below and see if any resonate. 

When Gut Issues Meet Unhealthy Food Obsession: A Vicious Cycle Begins

Red-Flag Eating Disorder Behaviors:

  1. Preoccupation with food: Constantly thinking or obsessing about food, to the detriment of other aspects of life.
  2. Obsessive calorie counting: Constantly tallying up every calorie consumed and burned, often leading to rigid food rules and restrictions.
  3. Feelings of guilt or shame around eating: Experiencing intense negative emotions before, during, or after eating, regardless of the amount or type of food consumed.
  4. Frequent weighing: Obsessively stepping on the scale multiple times a day, with fluctuations in weight causing major distress.
  5. Avoidance of social situations involving food: Withdrawing from social events or gatherings where food is present, out of fear of losing control or being judged.
  6. Extreme dietary restrictions: Cutting out entire food groups or severely limiting food intake in an attempt to control weight and/or health.
  7. Body checking: Constantly scrutinizing one’s body in mirrors or reflective surfaces, accompanied by negative self-talk and dissatisfaction with appearance.
  8. Excessive exercise: Compulsively exercising to “burn off” calories consumed or to alleviate feelings of guilt or shame related to eating.
  9. Secrecy around food: Hiding food or eating in secret to conceal the extent of one’s eating disorder behaviors from others.
  10. Compulsive overeating: Eating to the point of discomfort or pain, often as a way to cope with negative emotions or stress.

Now, if you are experiencing some of these behaviors, it doesn’t automatically mean you have an eating disorder. However, many people do and can struggle with their eating disorder for a long time without even realizing it. 

And here’s another thing: eating disorders aren’t just about food. They’re serious mental health conditions that can wreak havoc on our bodies in ways that many of us never fully recognize. And one of the most common—but often overlooked—side effects of eating disorders is the toll they take on our gastrointestinal (gut) health.

Digestive Problems Fueled By Eating Disorders

When we engage in disordered eating behaviors—whether it’s restricting food, binging and purging, or any combination thereof—it takes a toll on our digestive system. For example, chronic under-eating due to restriction  slows down our digestion and causes constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain. Furthermore, purging by self-induced vomiting can damage the lining of the esophagus and stomach, leading to inflammation, ulcers, and chronic acid reflux.

Eating Disorders Fueled By Digestive Problems

Here’s where things get really tricky: these GI symptoms can then reinforce the eating disorder, creating a vicious cycle that’s incredibly difficult to break free from. For example, someone might avoid eating altogether to avoid the discomfort of bloating or abdominal pain, further exacerbating their malnutrition and GI symptoms.

 The Vicious Cycle Continues

And the cycle continues: the more someone engages in disordered eating behaviors, the worse their GI symptoms become, and the worse their GI symptoms become, the more they rely on disordered eating behaviors to cope. It’s an unfair and often invisible cycle that can have devastating consequences for both physical and mental health.

Breaking The Cycle 

So, what’s a person to do? 

Step #1: it’s crucial to recognize that GI symptoms are not just a byproduct of disordered eating—they’re a signal that something much deeper is going on. If you’re experiencing persistent digestive issues, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider who can help you identify root causes and develop a treatment plan that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of your condition.

Step #2: it’s important to challenge the shame and stigma surrounding both eating disorders and GI issues. These are serious medical conditions that deserve to be treated with compassion and understanding, not judgment. By speaking openly and honestly about our experiences with these issues, we can help break down the barriers to diagnosis and treatment and create a world where everyone can access the care and support they need to heal.

Step #3: it’s essential to prioritize self-care and self-compassion as you navigate the ups and downs of recovery. Healing from an eating disorder is a journey, not a destination, and it’s okay to stumble along the way. What matters most is that you keep moving forward, one step at a time, towards a future where food is no longer your enemy but a source of nourishment and joy.

We’re Here to Help!

So, whether you’re struggling with GI issues, eating disorders, or both, know that help is available. With time and patience, you can break free from the cycle of misery and embrace a life of freedom from obsessing over food. 

If you are struggling with digestive issues or suspect that your relationship with food has veered into dangerous territory, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Having an expert in your corner can make all the difference in your recovery journey. And we’d love to be that support for you. 

Don’t buy into the belief that you can’t experience a better relationship with food and feel better in your body. We help folks make that their reality each and every day. 
Click here to join our waiting list so we can help you experience the peace and quality of life you’ve been searching for!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    allied nutrition care team of dietitians oklahoma

    Meet the Allied Nutrition Care Team

    We are a group of dietitian specialists based in Oklahoma offering virtual nutrition therapy for digestive health and disordered eating recovery.

    We love working with individuals who are ready to find relief from gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and embrace a more positive relationship with food and their bodies.

    Latest blog posts

    Offering virtual nutrition counseling services in Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia, and other select states.

    follow us

    Copyright 2024 Allied Nutrition

    Privacy Policy | TOS | Disclaimer

    Website by Declet Designs