Eating Disorders and Autoimmunity

There was an article published about a year ago about eating disorders and its relationship to autoimmunity. I thought it was important because we have to eat a restrictive diet.

Yes, there are absolutely a lot of gluten free options, but at times we can get a little obsessive. I’ve done it. I’ve gotten to the point that I would only eat chicken and scrambled eggs for weeks on end because I felt like everything else was hurting me. I got sick, my hair fell out, and I was mess. I was having very disordered eating. I wouldn’t call it an eating disorder, but I was a mess. It is something that we all have to be careful of when implementing our gluten free diet.

A study out of Sweden, though, goes a step further and calls the relationship between autoimmunity and eating disorders bidirectional.

There are two specific eating disorders that the study looked at and one “other”. Anorexia nervosa is a condition characterized by an obsessive desire to lose weight by not eating. Bulimia is condition where people eat a large amount of food in a short period of time triggering feelings of guilt and the desire to purge the food, normally through vomiting but sometimes through excessive laxative use. There is another disorder called orthorexia which is where people are obsessed with healthy eating to the exclusion of others they believe to be harmful.

The researchers looked at 2.5 million patients over the course of 22 years. Women diagnosed with anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders had a 114% chance of being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease within the following year. For me, that begs the question – were they not eating because of an undiagnosed autoimmune disease? They say eating disorders and autoimmune diseases disrupt the microbiome and increases cytokine release.

Here’s the interesting thing – if diagnosed with celiac, Crohn’s, or Type 1 diabetes there is a greater chance of having anorexia. I can totally see this. If you believe that food hurts, then you don’t want to eat.

The bottom line is that you just need to be careful out there. Eat a healthy, well balanced diet with enough calories to sustain your lifestyle. Many, many foods – especially fresh fruits and vegetables, rice and other gluten free grains, meat, chicken, pork, and seafood are all naturally gluten free and inexpensive. Gluten free eating does not have to involve many expensive gluten free processed foods. Please be careful.

If you or someone you know has become obsessed with food, has odd food habits, has experienced dramatic weight gain or loss, or exhibits any of the other warning signs of an eating disorder, please contact a doctor to discuss. Here is a list of symptoms for various eating disorders.

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