Starving Your Microbes: The Digestive Impact of Disordered Eating

Do you struggle with disordered eating habits? It's important to know that your gut health could be impacted. Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that play a crucial role in your overall health, including your mental health. Emerging research suggests that there may be a link between disordered eating and gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut bacteria. One study found that individuals with anorexia nervosa had lower levels of certain beneficial gut bacteria compared to healthy individuals (1). Another study found that individuals with bulimia nervosa had alterations in gut bacteria that were associated with increased inflammation and decreased levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters (2). While more research is needed in this area, these findings suggest that disordered eating may disrupt the delicate balance of your gut microbiome, which can negatively impact your mental and physical health. 

What you can do: Improve your relationship with food Consume a variety of foods Pre/Probiotic Foods and/or Supplements Reducing stress around food and improving one's relationship with food can also have a positive impact on gut health. Chronic stress can lead to gut dysbiosis, inflammation, and a compromised gut barrier (3). Therefore, incorporating stress-reducing practices, such as mindfulness meditation or gentle exercise, can help support a healthy gut microbiome and potentially improve symptoms of disordered eating. So, what can you do to support your gut health while working on your relationship with food? First, focus on consuming a varied and nutrient-dense diet that includes plenty of types of foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, rich protein sources, and healthy fats. Eating a diverse range of foods can help support a healthy gut microbiome by providing the bacteria with the necessary nutrients they need to thrive (4). Additionally, incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into your diet may also be beneficial. Probiotics are live bacteria that can help support a healthy gut microbiome, while prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that serve as food for the bacteria in your gut (5). Foods that are high in probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut, while foods that are high in prebiotics include garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, and bananas. It's important to note that if you're struggling with disordered eating habits, seeking support from a healthcare professional is crucial. We can help you create a personalized plan to support your mental and physical health. In conclusion, your gut health and your relationship with food are interconnected. By prioritizing a nutrient-dense diet, incorporating probiotics and prebiotics, and reducing stress around food, you can support a healthy gut microbiome and potentially improve your mental and physical health. 

Sources for more information: Kleiman SC, Watson HJ, Bulik-Sullivan EC, et al. The Intestinal Microbiota in Acute Anorexia Nervosa and During Renourishment: Relationship to Depression, Anxiety, and Eating Disorder Psychopathology. Psychosom Med. 2015;77(9):969-981. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000000211 Kleiman SC, Glenny EM, Bulik-Sullivan EC, et al. Daily changes in composition and diversity of the intestinal microbiota in patients with anorexia nervosa: A series of three cases. Eur Eat Disord Rev. 2017;25(5):423-427. doi:10.1002/erv.2526 Kelly JR, Kennedy PJ, Cryan JF, Dinan TG, Clarke G, Hyland NP. Breaking down the barriers: the gut microbiome, intestinal permeability and stress-related psychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. 2015;5:1. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2015.00055 Sonnenburg ED, Sonnenburg JL. Starving our Microbial Self: The Deleterious Consequences of a Diet Deficient in Microbiota-Accessible Carbohydrates. Cell Metab. 2014;20(5):779-786. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2014.07.003 Gibson GR, Hutkins R, Sanders ME, et al. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of prebiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017;14(8):491-502. doi:10.1038/nrgastro.2017.75