7 Best Tips to Heal Your Gut After Anorexia and Other Eating Disorders

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

EATING DISORDERS (LIKE ANOREXIA) = BLOATING, CONSTIPATION & IBS

Eating disorders, like Anorexia, bloating, IBS and constipation go hand-in-hand. 

In fact, 87% of individuals with an eating disorder, including anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and 98% will develop a functional gut disorder of some type, like chronic constipation and bloating, GERD, gastroparesis, or a gut-brain disorder, like anxiety and depression—just to name a few.

Restrictive eating and chronic dieting wreak havoc on the gut microbiome primarily because these habits ‘starve’ out healthy gut microbes. A healthy gut microbiome needs nutrients and a variety of nutrients to create a healthy diversity of gut bugs inside, connected to better gut health overall (ie. No bloating, constipation or IBS!). 

You can imagine what happens then to your gut microbiome if you just eat chicken or broccoli every single day…you develop gut bugs that just eat chicken or broccoli! Just like if you eat lots of artificially sweetened or packaged diet bars, shakes and diet foods…it’s the same thing as eating lots of sodas and Doritos chips snack packs…your gut microbes are not well nourished for a healthier ecosystem overall!

Research also shows that anorexia itself may be a byproduct of gut issues, like parasitic infections (as parasites tell their hosts what to eat or not eat). And autoimmunity is another trigger to disordered eating as inflammatory cytokines and autoanbodies attack neuropeptides and hormones that govern hunger and fullness cues—confusing our signals. Hello under-eating or overeating! 

MY EATING DISORDER & GUT HEALTH STORY (ORTHOREXIA + ANOREXIA = BLOATING, CONSTIPATION & IBS!)

Anorexia - A Girl With Anorexia Turned Back, Spine And Ribs Visible

My eating disorder story is a perfect example of how both gut issues triggered my anorexia and orthorexia…AND how my eating disorder caused gut issues!

Prior to my eating disorder, the “cards” were stacked against my gut!

From day one out of the womb as a C-section, formula fed baby, my gut was never “seeded” with healthy gut microbes. Couple this with antibiotics, processed foods, diet processed foods, my sweet tooth, and undetected celiac disease, dairy intolerance, mold and lyme infections, and parasitic infections, and BOOM…Enter: chronic dieting, anorexia and orthorexia…followed by the slew of side effects from these habits!

I tried every single diet under the sun (Keto, vegan, carnivore, eating “air”, fasting, eating the same things every day), and even though I felt “good” at first, all of these extremes eventually backfired—further disrupting my gut bugs and resulting in increased food intolerances, SIBO, IBS, bloating and constipation, and increased fears about how food made me feel.

Additionally, my anxiety and obsessive thoughts were off the charts because…the gut is connected to our brain! If our gut is a mess, then our brain is “off.”

It was a never ending spiral…until I discovered 7 tactics to heal my gut.

7 Tips to Heal Your Gut After Anorexia, Bloating, IBS & Constipation Be Gone!

Anorexia - A Happy Woman Holding Milkshake

Got bloating, IBS and/or constipation from anorexia or another eating disorder?

Look no further than these 7 effective tips below to heal and feel free to Book a 20-minute complimentary health strategy call with me through my virtual functional medicine clinic if you are truly serious about wanting to feel better and heal your gut from the inside out. 

#1. Nourish Your Gut Bugs Back to Health

Our diet is the #1 influencer of the gut microbiome (aside from a fecal microbial transplant—which most of us are not doing). 

Ironically, most eating disorder treatment programs or nutritional rehabilitation models do NOT recognize this, often based upon the Standard American Diet, rich in foods that humans have only been consuming for the past 50-100 years out of our 200,000+ year history on this planet. 

Many processed foods—especially shelf-stable grains, cereals, breads, nuts/peanuts—are also rich in mycotoxins (toxic mold spores) that several research studies now point to being a key trigger to anorexia and eating disorders itself!

I spent 15 years of my own life in and out of treatment centers where the classic “therapeutic diet” was based upon the Pop-tarts, Pizza and Pastries model. Hopefully times have changed; however, if not, teaching patients how to nourish their gut bugs back to health could be a game changing revolution for both treatment and yourself personally.

Food is medicine. No amount of supplements can outperform a poor diet. The prescription for healing your gut? Balanced, whole food, nutrient-dense eating—including all three macronutrients (healthy fats, organic proteins and fiber—aiming for 2-3 different colorful veggies at meal times, especially green things (Note: Not a veggie person for breakfast? No sweat! Start the day off with some green juice or celery juice in the morning, eat 1 piece of fresh fruit or just get more colors at lunch and dinner).

A few additional hacks optimize your nutrients to heal your gut include:  

  • Focus on real foods.

Swap out the non-real foods [like refined grains, industrial seed oils (canola, grapeseed, rancid olive oil), gluten, conventional dairy, soy, sugar, artificial sweeteners (even stevia extract or Reb A stevia that’s not ‘true leaf’ stevia)] for nutrient-dense foods: if it didn’t grow on the land, swim in the sea or roam the earth, it’s not real food (most real foods contain 1 ingredient and don’t require a label). I love to shop local and get my produce and meats from the farmer’s market when I can!

  • Rotate your foods.

try to not eat the same thing every single day, at least for dinner, mix it up! As for breakfast and lunch, pick between 2 to 3 different rotating breakfast and lunch ideas. 

  • Stick to 1-2 servings of fruit per day to keep blood sugar stable and in balance.

Also, if you snack, reach for a protein, healthy fat or veggie based snack to balance blood sugar too, like a cup of bone broth, a handful of macadamia nuts, half an apple with coconut butter or cucumbers and guacamole. 

  • Properly prepare grains, beans and nuts.

If you tolerate grains like rice and gluten-free oats, beans or nuts, “properly prepare” them by soaking them in clean filtered water for at least 7+ hours with 2-3 tbsp of apple cider vinegar before cooking and consuming them to help remove any phytates and some of the lectin content from their outer shells to improve absorption. 

  • Use natural seasonings.

Like Himalayan sea salt, coconut aminos, fresh herbs, bone broths (sautéed veggies) and paleo friendly salad dressings to flavor your meals.

  • Eat for your body (no one else’s).

No two bodies are alike! So your personal “food list” will not be found on a keto, carnivore, vegan, paleo, low FODMAP or any other food list website or book. Some people tolerate dairy, others do not. Some people feel great with white and brown rice, others get bloated. Some people can handle bananas and pineapple, others get an instant blood sugar spike.

Some people can do almond butter others can’t, but sunflower seed butter is just fine! If you go on a “therapeutic” diet (ie. Carnivore, AIP, keto, vegan, etc.), view it as a reset, then aim to include an abundance of nutrient dense foods uniquely built for your body—not a food list. Choose quality sources above all (ie. Grass-fed dairy, gluten-free oats, organic pesticide-free grains, etc.).

  •  80/20 balance.

If you eat something “imperfect”, make it delicious and enjoy it! 80% of the time, eat real food, 20% of the time, let life happen. In fact, a “little dirt” never hurt—and actually is encouraged both mentally and physically (fact based on the “hygiene hypothesis”: the “cleaner we are, the sicker we get”). When in Rome, try the pasta! On your birthday, eat a slice of cake.

Incorporate 1 “gut love treat” into your daily life (something imperfect) and be a food snob about it—such as 70-100% dark chocolate after dinner, or real homemade-from-scratch Mac and cheese (no boxed Kraft here). A big part of nourishing our gut bugs includes enjoying our food (read: not eating chicken and broccoli every single day. 

#2. Support Your Digestive “Mechanics”

Anorexia - Different Nutritious Food, Fruits, Vegetables

Your digestive “mechanics” are like the little factory workers in your body that aid in specific aspects of digestion!

  • First you have your stomach acid (HCL) that helps break down foods—especially proteins.
  • You have digestive enzymes, that act like mini Pac-Mans that chomp, chomp, chomp your food!
  • You have bile acids and nutrients that help your gallbladder signal the release of enzymes, poo and clear wastes.
  • And you even have fiber and post-biotics (short chain fatty acids) that help keep constipation and inflammation at bay!

(P.S. You can check out my favorite digestive aids mentioned above on the Fullscript store and get a 10% discount! Win! Sign in here). 

#3. Probiotic Up (the Right Way)

Probiotics (mimicking healthy gut bugs) are a buzz word nowadays that can be helpful for your gut…as long as you choose the right types for you and pair them with pre-biotics in your diet (found in fiber-rich foods like cooked veggies, some fruits and starches like cooked and cooled potatoes/sweet potatoes and cooked and cooled rice or overnight gluten free oats). 

The best way to choose the right probiotics for your gut type are via a functional medicine practitioner who can do some testing and assessment to decide the best strains for you. Particularly, from the bifidobacteria and lactic acid bacteria genras! Additionally, Spore Based formulas are well tolerated by most folks!

(P.S.S. Again, you can check out my favorite probtioic formulas like this one and this one on the Fullscript store and get a 10% discount! Win! Sign in here). 

#4. Heal Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is a common side effect of inflammation, resulting in bloating, undigested foods, autoimmune disease (present in at least 1 out of 2 people with a history of disordered eating). 

Humic and Fulvic minerals are an excellent

#5. Live a Gut Loving Life:  Movement, Sun, Sleep, Connection & Avoid Toxins

Anorexia - A Young Couple Jogging Side By Side

This point is big…and an entire article within itself. 

To keep it simple, healing your gut and anorexia goes beyond just foods and supplements. In fact, my absolute favorite question to ask my patients at the end of our work together is: What helped you the most in your healing journey? And very rarely (like never) do patients say, “an elimination diet” or “tons of supplements.”

Instead they typically say something related to LESS STRESS and LIFESTYLE factors, like these 5:

  • Move your body in a way that brings you joy and gets your lymphatic system flowing daily (ditch the chronic cardio)
  • Spend time in nature—soak up the sun; stand in the grass barefoot; regularly get out and about—on a hike or time away from screens and bad quality indoor air
  • Rest—aim for 7-9 hours of deep sleep; ditch the screens right before bed in favor of a book, yoga flow, meditation, writing, prayers, or a warm shower or bath
  • Connect—fight the urge for isolation; build community; spend time with people and make connections by doing things you love (birds of a feather flock together)
  • Avoid toxins! (This is a big one that we can address together after you Book a 20-minute complimentary health strategy call today if you are truly serious about wanting to feel better and heal your gut from the inside out. Most individuals with anorexia or other eating disorder tendencies have a degree of toxic burden in their body to “clear” in order to think more clearly—be it mycotoxins (mold spores), gut infections (Parasites) or other daily toxic burden)

#6. Just Breathe

Your gut is your second brain—it contains over 500 million brain cells (neurons) and is constantly sending communication signals up and down the gut brain axis via the vagus nerve. 

Ever experience butterflies in your stomach? Boom! Gut brain connection!  So you can imagine what stress does to our gut health overall? Inflammation, butterflies, anxiety, depression—it all accumulates inside, like a wild fire without a fire hose!

The cool thing? You can decrease inflammation by de-stressing the gut brain axis…starting with your breath. 

A simple way to get started? Pause for 4-6 deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your nose of mouth before you eat, and start and end the day with a minute or two of deep breathing.

It may seem small, but it adds up. In fact, just 5 minutes of meditation is equivalent to an hour of sleep or restoration in your body (and gut). Gut healing happens when we are in “rest and digest” mode. 

A daily prayer practice and a yoga practice became a “game changer” in my own healing journey, and there are multiple other strategies too! We will find what works for you! Book a 20-minute complimentary health strategy call today). 

#7. Dig Deeper

Anorexia - Woman Wondering Sitting On A Sofa At Home

Ok, I lied. There are 6 tips.

“Digging deeper” is all about doing any lab testing to figure out what is driving your symptoms. IBS, anorexia, constipation and bloating don’t just happen, and IBS is actually called a “diagnosis of exclusion” because a lot don’t actually don’t know what causes it! But we do!

 In fact, 80% of all cases of IBS are actually related to SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and/or gut infections (like parasites or bacteria).

Got slow motility or gastroparesis? That’s often a gut-brain axis issue.

GERD or heartburn? Low stomach acid.

Loose and greasy stools? A gallbladder problem. 

You get the picture.

Working with a functional medicine practitioner can be a “game changer” for figuring out what is going on “under the hood” and addressing the root causes of your greatest health challenges. Book a 20-minute complimentary health strategy call today if you are truly serious about wanting to feel better and heal your gut from the inside out. 

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