By: Jessica Long
Guest Post Writer
Trigger Warning: Mention of eating disorder behaviors.
If you’re a medical professional in the eating disorder field or you yourself have struggled with an eating disorder, the following statement might not surprise you:
There is a significant overlap between anxiety, eating disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders (namely, IBS).
Let’s dig into the research
To illuminate this, let’s dig into the research for a bit.
DeJong et al.1 found that over 68% of patients with bulimia enrolled in an outpatient facility had IBS. Likewise, Boyd et al.2 discovered that 98% of patients admitted to an eating disorder unit had at least one functional gastrointestinal disorder (FGID), with IBS being the most prevalent (in 52% of patients). Interestingly, anxiety was a strong predictor of IBS status.2 Patients with IBS have higher levels of both anxiety and depression,3 and research suggests this connection might have a genetic component.4
Although the current research cannot definitively tell us which comes first (the anxiety, the eating disorder, or the IBS), in 89 patients with both an eating disorder and IBS, the eating disorder came prior to the IBS in 78 cases.5 Most gastrointestinal symptoms significantly decrease following termination of the eating disorder behaviors (i.e. restoring normal eating habits and patterns).6 …