People with IBS may experience disordered eating due to condition

New Research led by Swinburne University has revealed that a third of people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may suffer from symptoms of disordered eating and orthorexia- an obsession with healthy eating.

April is IBS Awareness Month, a time to highlight diagnosis, treatment, and the quality-of-life issues experienced by one in five Australians who suffer from IBS.

Lead author of the study and Swinburne Senior Lecturer in Dietetics Dr Caroline Tuck says dietary management strategies for IBS may be having a negative psychological impact and this has not been well studied.

“Diets such as low FODMAP have strong evidence to reduce symptoms of IBS. However, as the low FODMAP diet is restrictive, there is potential that it may result in disordered eating behaviours. Equally, eating disorders may lead to IBS in the long term.”

“The study suggests that those with IBS and disordered eating are likely to have higher gastrointestinal symptom severity, higher stress and anxiety, and worse food-related quality of life. These characteristics need to be considered in research and treatment approaches.”

Along with researchers from Monash University, Dr Jess Biesiekierski and Nessmah Sultan, the team are urging clinicians to consider these characteristics when prescribing dietary therapies and for those managing IBS symptoms to seek professional help.

“While orthorexia nervosa has not been officially recognised as an eating disorder according to the DSM-5, it’s crucial that we consider the potential impact that people face when dealing with gut symptoms. More research is needed to better understand the association between IBS and disordered eating such as orthorexia”

“It’s an important topic that needs greater awareness. Clinicians should target dietary therapies appropriately in IBS, and when disordered eating is suspected, clinicians should utilise non-restrictive dietary and non-diet focused therapies.”

“For those managing IBS with diets such as low FODMAP, we strongly encourage them to work with an Accredited Practising Dietitian.”