Here at Sweet Spot Health, we the principles of Intuitive Eating and non-diet nutrition to help people get it together around food, body image and movement so that they can say a big stuff you to diet BS and develop a sustainable way to care for their health.
Hi! I’m Maddi
founder of sweet spot health
The Connection Between Eating Disorders and Gut Health

Embarking on the journey of understanding how gut health and eating disorders are connected reveals a complex story that goes beyond just digestion. In this blog, we’ll uncover the role the gut plays in digestion, the link it has with eating disorders, and how this connection influences overall wellbeing.

The Role of our Gut in Digestion

The gut, including the stomach, intestines, and colon, does more than just digest food. It breaks down food, absorbs essential nutrients, and houses a diverse community of bacteria known as the gut microbiome. This microbiome, influenced by factors like diet and age, plays a crucial role in regulating energy and impacting health.

The gut-brain axis and eating disorders links emotional and cognitive centres of the brain with gut functions. Changes in the gut microbiota can influence mental health, correlating with conditions like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Cortisol, our stress hormone, is linked to gut health. The guts significant production of serotonin (impact on mood and appetite), is susceptible to imbalances. These both may contribute to eating disorders.

The Deep Connection: Gut Health and Eating Disorders

Research indicates 98% of individuals with an eating disorder also have gut disorders. This highlights the deep connection between mental and digestive health(1). Eating disorders can lead to challenges for our gut.

Severe food restriction in anorexia can lead to malabsorption, physical health issues and further increase disordered eating patterns. Purging behaviours, commonly seen in bulimia can result in damage to the mucosal lining and motility disturbances.

Microbiome Impact on Eating Behaviours

Our gut microbiome is disrupted by disordered eating behaviours. This can lead to dysbiosis which is an imbalance in gut bacteria. This can impact overall health and exacerbate gut issues commonly experienced in eating disorders.

Gut Disturbances in ED Recovery

As individuals move towards recovering from an eating disorder, gut symptoms often emerge. This is especially seen during the early stages of re-establishing regular and adequate intake. Bloating, gas, diarrhoea, nausea, constipation, acid reflux, and indigestion become common as the body adjusts to a renewed diet.

Prologed food restriction can lead to deprived maintenance and repair of the gut. This can lead to discomfort, bloating, and an overall sense of unease. Addressing these issues requires a gradual process of retraining the digestive system. Emphasising the importance of maintaining a diverse and consistent diet to restore bacterial diversity. Anxiety surrounding food adds another layer of complexity, impacting digestion through heightened nervous system activity.

Constipation in Eating Disorders: Unravelling the Symptoms and Solutions

Constipation, a prevalent issue in individuals with eating disorders, brings its own set of discomforts—abdominal pain, rectal pain, and hard stools. This is generally caused by decreased food and fluid intake, reduced fibre intake, lack of exercise, laxative abuse, and deficiencies in potassium and magnesium. Managing constipation becomes crucial in the recovery process.

Treatment involves steering clear of stimulant laxatives and focusing on normalising diet. The reintroduction of regular meals, adjustments in fibre intake, increased fluid intake, and, if required, weight gain are all important.

IBS and its Interaction with EDs:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a functional bowel disorder, shares symptoms with eating disorders, including altered bowel habits, abdominal pain, and bloating. The dietary-responsive nature of IBS often leads individuals to restrict foods, potentially worsening their relationship with food.

Managing IBS alongside eating disorders requires a nuanced approach, steering clear of restrictive diets and focusing on symptom management. The low FODMAP diet for eating disorders, commonly prescribed for IBS, may not be suitable for these individuals, emphasising the need for individualised approaches.

Holistic Approaches to Eating Disorders

Incorporating gut health interventions, such as dietary changes, probiotics, and psychological therapies, can significantly enhance the treatment outcomes for eating disorders. Weight restoration is a pivotal factor, positively influencing gastric emptying and alleviating associated gastrointestinal symptoms.

Professional assessment is crucial to rule out other gastrointestinal disorders, and a holistic approach is recommended, combining nutritional guidance, stress reduction, and stopping disordered behaviours. As part of this comprehensive approach, seeking specialised help from professionals, such as dietitians specialising in gut health, is essential.

Persistent Gastrointestinal Symptoms

Despite progress in treatment, some individuals face persistent gastrointestinal symptoms, which can hinder their ability to embrace a diverse range of foods and eat intuitively. Seeking professional help from a dietitian with a special interest in gut health becomes paramount to address these lingering challenges.

GI disturbances are prevalent in humans with eating disorders. Individualised assessment, ruling out other gastrointestinal disorders, and focusing on symptom management are important in guiding individuals towards recovery. As disordered eating patterns decrease, symptoms typically clear, leading to a sweeter relationship between mind and gut.

For those navigating the complexities of gut health in eating disorder recovery, seeking specialised support is recommended.

Hi I’m Sophia, the gut health Dietitian at Sweet Spot Health and the author of this blog post. I bring a wealth of expertise in individualising gut health and ED journeys. Book an appointment today for more individualised advice!


Here at Sweet Spot Health, we the principles of Intuitive Eating and non-diet nutrition to help people get it together around food, body image and movement so that they can say a big stuff you to diet BS and develop a sustainable way to care for their health.
Hi! I’m Maddi
sweet spot health founder