When is Eating a Disorder?
Disordered eating is one of those surprisingly common conditions that most people do not like to think about. The fact is that up to 40% of our young women, and a growing percentage of men, suffer from some form of distorted body image and have a belief that they are overweight, while up to 1.5 % have a diagnosable form of eating disorder. Although breaking down stigma and seeking simple measures of help for these sensitive populations is partly the reason for this article, the main rational for writing this piece is in an effort to help people that suffer with food addictive behaviours far beyond their adolescent years.
Although much of our food and body image related feelings and behaviours start in adolescence, the true nature of disordered eating goes way beyond the woes of teenagedhood. Many, many people are made to believe that their weight problems are simply a manifestation of an over abundance of food in their diet. At least that is what popular culture would like you to think. In some case, this is unfortunately true. I have, however, have seen a number of people who have weight concerns and feel as though they do not eat a lot. So why the discrepancy?
The fact is that in the majority of cases it is actually not entirely the amount of calories that one consumes but the type of calories or even the specific foods that they are eating which makes all the difference to their metabolism and, as it turns out, their psychology. In particular, as ironic as it is, being over weight is often a result of stress hormones or liver or kidney dysfunctions and little do do with calories. For example, histamine intolerance is a condition that results in water retention for many people, along with a host of other symptoms. Foods that are high in histamine, like aged cheese and olives, will cause some people to swell up with water. The water weight that they carry is not fat, yet they believe that they are overweight. The same thing occurs for many people with poor kidney function, fatty liver disease or bacterial overgrowth of the small intestine.
Understanding the connections between the food we eat and the affect it can have on our body can help break the vicious cycle that many people have with what they eat, including people with food addiction and diagnosed eating disorders. The connections that our food choices have with our bodies was recently uncovered and outlined in the following TED article – A Scientist Explores the Mysteries of the Gut-Brain Connection.
One exert from this article – Charting the communication pathway between the gut and brain could someday lead us to new treatments for disorders and conditions. A number of diseases — autism, obesity, anorexia, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, PTSD and chronic stress — share a symptom known as altered visceral sensing, or a hyper- or hyposensitivity to gut stimuli. “For instance, clinical observations have suggested that some children with anorexia may be hyper-aware of the food they ingest from an early age,” says Bohórquez. “Under normal circumstances, this process happens without detailed spatial and temporal awareness, but those children can feel what’s going on in there, which triggers anxious feelings.” With this knowledge, scientists may better understand other disorders that have been thought to be solely psychological.
Very cool stuff …. but the reality is “someday” can actually be today with what functional medicine aims to uncover for people willing to take the plunge.