a link between celiac and bulimia

6 years ago

So for those of you who don't know what celiac is, or if anyone is unclear on what bulimia is, here are some brief descriptions:

Celiac is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine triggered by an inability to process gluten, a protein  found in wheat and other grains.  Ingesting gluten causes malabsorption problems, causing many celiacs to be very underweight.  The flipside of that is that when your body isn't getting any nutrients, it will go into starvation mode, and several celiacs are overweight due to this.  I fall into the latter category.

Symptoms are widely varied, because the root problem is not getting any nutrients from your food, and every body acts differently.  Common symptoms range from every stomach complaint imaginable, to psychological and emotional problems.  I'll go into my personal symptoms in a bit.  I sometimes tell people that celiac is a glorified wheat allergy, which is only partially true, but it makes it easier for most people to understand.  The only known cure is a life long very strict gluten free diet.  This means no pasta, bread, pastries, etc.  In addition to not eating any wheat, rye, barley, and a number of bizarro chemicals and food additives, no toasters, utensils, plates and cookware can be shared with gluten containing food.  If this is the first time you've ever heard of celiac, and if you love food as much as I do, this probably sounds like a lifelong sentence in hell.  Well, I thought that at first too, but not only is a gluten free diet totally managable, it may have been the most important change I will ever make in my life.  

So, Lars, what happens to you when you eat gluten? 

the worst heartburn you can imagine, feeling really tired, dizzy and confused, depression, anxiety, severe bloating and full body hives.  I also had very erratic periods, and abnormal fluctuations in my hormone levels. vomiting and diarrhea happen from time to time as well.  My symptoms vary in severity depending on the amount of wheat ingested.  If I ate an entire cookie, I would probably throw up alot, and be depressed for several days, but if I kiss my husband after he eats a sandwhich, I will just have mild to moderate heartburn and a little bloating.

That's a very breif journey into my celiac symptoms.  What is bulimia and what does it have to do with a food allergy?

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by over eating or "binging" on every kind of food one can find, and then often followed by compensatory behavior (vomiting, fasting, use of laxatives of diuretics).  The cycle of binging and purging is also usually accompanied by feelings of guilt and depression.

There are two main symptoms I experience when eating wheat gluten that I think at the very least exacerbated and seriously prolonged my battle with bulimia. 

Depression/ Anxiety -this was sort of a cumulative factor.  I suffered from severe depression for several years, and at one point was hospitalized for a treatment program.  Obviously there are inextricable links between eating disorders and depression.  Eating disorders are a psychological disease perpetuated by our society's ridiculous standards and oppressive treatment of women.  They are a manifestation of self effacement, little to no self esteem, and often are exhibited by women who have suffered some type of abuse.  I could go on forever.  But I digress - the point of this article is simply the link between celiac and bulimia from my personal perspective.

Bloating.  If I get G bombed, (that's my code for accidentally ingesting gluten), I get so horrendously bloated that even my wedding ring will not come off my plump little finger.  The bloating is especially bad in my stomach, because it gives me this "fat" feeling"  I belive this was a big factor in the purging episodes, because after eating I was left with a feeling of "fatness".  My pants wouldn't fit as well, and I had this overwhelming urge to get rid of the "fat feeling".  This may sound shallow, but accompany this with already fluctuating hormones of a pre teen girl, and it becomes a panic, an obsession.  Continue for years, and it simply becomes a pattern, a habit. 

It boils down to this:  Gluten exacerbates feelings of depression and anxiety - - - depression and anxiety make the occurence of an eating disorder more likely.  Without effectively removing the offensive chemical reaction in a young girl's brain, the cycle could continue indefinitely. 

I can't say that my eating disorder was 100% gluten related.  However, the gluten is gone from my diet, and I have not had a binge, a purge, or a fast in almost a year.  While there were many factors contributing to my experience with depression and subsequent bulimia, I feel that it would have not gone on nearly as long and would have been more easily treatable if I had cut wheat and gluten out of my diet much sooner.  So I think it is fair to say that a wheat allergy or a gluten intolerance could be making it more difficult for women and young girls to recover from these terrible afflictions. 

If this sounds relatable to you, a sister, a daughter, a friend, or any other woman you know, then try cutting wheat out of your diet and see if it helps.  It could change your life.  



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