Because of the physical strain your relationship with food has put on your body, whether through an eating disorder or through a pattern of disordered eating, you may be struggling with not only your mental health, but also your own body as you attempt to recover. One of the most vital physical components of your health that needs to be addressed during recovery is your digestive system.
You may decide what to eat with your mind and consume what you eat with your mouth, but it is your gut that must process what you eat. It has no say in the matter, but must digest whatever you choose to put in it. What you consume—from food to drink to medications—affects what is increasingly becoming known as the gastrointestinal ecosystem that is your gut. This ecosystem was designed to be a complex population of healthy bacteria, fashioned to assist in digesting food, allowing for the absorption of a variety of nutrients, and protecting against unhealthy bacteria and organisms.
When the gastrointestinal ecosystem is compromised through unhealthy eating, binging, purging, and restricting behaviors, as well as the use of medications such as antibiotics, unhealthy conditions can take root. These unhealthy conditions can contribute to increased depression and anxiety, along with food cravings, irritable bowel issues, indigestion, gas, and bloating.
At The Center • A Place of HOPE, our whole-person approach to recovery puts together health care and mental health professionals to address these issues. This is especially relevant with digestive issues, as these can contribute to mood swings, depression, and anxiety. When problematic organisms in the digestive tract are identified and treated, the treatment involves the successful elimination of this toxic internal presence. When these organisms were alive, they contributed low levels of toxicity to that individual. Killing them can raise the level of toxicity short term, as the body processes them out. This higher level of toxicity can contribute to a corresponding short-term rise in physical and emotional symptoms. With medical and mental health professionals working together, this temporary spike can be addressed and successfully managed as a team.
In addition to removing the toxic organisms that have overtaken your digestive system, it is also imperative to begin rebuilding the healthy digestive flora that were compromised due the disordered eating habits. This process requires a thoughtful, systematic approach of specialty foods and supplements to slowly reintroduce the necessary digestive flora and nutrients back into your system.
Successfully recovering from an eating disorder requires a holistic strategy to address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements of a person. Depending on the severity of the eating disorder, seeking professional help, especially for healing the digestive system, is paramount. The team of eating disorder treatment specialists at The Center • A Place of HOPE Eating Disorder Program can be a great resource as you evaluate your treatment options. Call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 or fill out our contact form and someone from The Center • A Place of HOPE will be in touch with you soon.
Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Hope Help & Healing for Eating Disorders: A Whole-Person Approach to Treatment of Anorexia, Bulimia, and Disordered Eating.