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Eating Disorders and GI Health

Eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa (AN),  Bulimia Nervosa (BN) and Binge Eating Disorder (BED), are often accompanied by gastrointestinal issues. The desire for thinness leads patients with disordered eating to inappropriately restrict their diet, or to binge eat and subsequently purge through self-induced vomiting and/or laxative abuse. These behavioral patterns cause several digestive problems that could complicate the recovery process and disrupt the quality of life.

Esophageal Issues: Common problems that we have observed in our clinic Iinclude dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), globus sensation (phantom sensation in the throat), heartburn and/or acid regurgitation.

Stomach Issues: Patients frequently complain of early fullness after eating, abdominal distension and bloating, epigastric burning, and/or nausea. The symptoms may be attributed to functional dyspepsia, slow gastric motility, or irritable bowel syndrome.

Lower Digestive Issues: One of the common gastrointestinal symptoms among patients with eating disorders is constipation. Constipation can also lead to other problems, such as internal/external hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, pelvic pain, and/or bacterial overgrowth syndrome.

Therefore, it is necessary to address the issue of the ongoing or past history of eating disorders when investigating gastrointestinal disorders. The doctor can accordingly determine whether the GI complaints stem from the eating disorder or from new issues that have developed. Sometimes simple testing is recommended. 
Anna Chung Patient Care Coordinator

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