Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Recovered from an eating disorder, ditched dieting for good or healed relationship with food, but digestive irritation hasn’t gone or perhaps even got worse? Wonder if you felt as rubbish physically when you were in the depths of disordered eating patterns?
Just like there is a difference between being weight restored and recovered, there is also a difference between being recovered from an eating disorder and being health restored. When the body starts to heal and repair during ED recovery, new symptoms such as food intolerances, digestive issues and mood fluctuations can linger even years after the initial recovery steps.
Either it was a form of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, each of the eating disorders drain the body’s resources in one way or another, similarly to other big life events like pregnancy or running a marathon. Something as taxing for health needs after-care and a diligent plan to make sure the body is at it’s best health for longevity.
I completely get it, the recovery itself and changing food relationship has been a long, tiring stretch and it may feel disheartening to think of making even more improvements towards health. Think about this is as a health MOT. What specifically needs to be oiled and serviced for your wonderful vehicle (your body) to run smoother?
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Start with the gut
The famous Hippocrates quote ‘All disease begins in the gut’ is as old as 2500 years and it certainly has a valid point.
It’s not at all uncommon to experience more frequent bloating, sluggish digestion, flatulence and an increased number of intolerances when going through ED recovery. And that’s just to name a few of the symptoms.
‘Leaky gut’ syndrome or intestinal permeability has been the center of focus in the functional medicine world for the past decade and there’s a clear link between leaky gut and autoimmune
Not surprising, there is an increased risk of autoimmune disease among eating disorder sufferers (2) and to prevent auto-immune disease in the future, it’s a good idea to give your gut some TLC now.
Make a start with the functional medicine 5R protocol, but do make sure you find an experienced nutritionist or a naturopath that can support you in your journey. Follow the works of Dr. M Hyman and Dr. Axe to gain clarity on your next steps.
Do take a candida overgrowth test, especially after undergoing recovery from bulimia or binge eating disorder, as candida may create more unwanted symptoms (sugar cravings, lethargy, headaches and bloating and flatulence) and challenges that may stall your progress in restoring health.
Don’t settle for ‘surviving’ and aim for ‘thriving’ when it comes to your gut health, as well as your body. Decreasing intestinal permeability can help reduce digestive symptoms, increase moods and stress resilience.
2. Boost Immunity
Years of restriction with eating disorders (even the restriction-bingeing cycle in BED) mean the body is in ‘fight or flight’ response the majority of the time, in turn prolonging increased cortisol level fuels that can take a toll on the immune system. If more frequent colds and flus, eczema and food intolerances start to bother you, this could mean your immunity needs a well- deserved boost.
Starting with restoring gut health will work miracles, as around 80% of the immune system is in the gut (3).
Avoid over-exercising as it promotes excess prolonged levels of cortisol and stick to memoderate-level rate level activities, such as hiking and low to medium intensity yoga (Hatha and some forms of flow). Soothe your immune system with regular yin practice, restorative yoga practice and meditation.
It is not uncommon for people with ED history to downgrade the importance of rest and sleep, which is essential for optimum functioning of the immune system. Practice listening to your body and cultivate intuitive rest.
Supplement with vitamin C, zinc and echinacea if feel like getting sick or simply if you feel your immunity has taken a hit through years of ED.
3. Rebalance hormones
Getting your period back after months or even years without it can be a true blessing and a curse at the same time. Once it’s back, it may feel like it’s back with a vengeance- irregular and heavy periods and severe PMS just aren’t worth it.
Be patient, estrogen and progesterone need extra time to rebalance after a period of inactivity. The good news is, there are a few foods and lifestyle tricks to support them.
Heard of ‘seed cycling’? A natural, non-invasive method to help promote the main hormone in each stage of the women’s cycle simply by using particular dietary seeds (4).
As hormones are the body’s unique messengers, they are all interlinked through our systems. Particularly important to address any blood sugar imbalances and create as much balance and stability in the body.
Stick to regular well-balanced meals with quality sources of protein, fat and complex carbs. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar as much as possible while hormones balance out. Get quality zzz’s and reduce toxic loads of stress.
Trust the ancient wisdom and supplement with shatavari, which literary means ‘the one with 100 husbands’. Said to help in each stage of womanhood, this Eastern root may support cycle regularity and hormone balance.
If anxiety, mood swings and period pains are becoming too much to bear, give CBD oil a try. Many root for its ‘magic’ effects on hormone balancing and reduction of symptoms. Make sure you get a good quality oil from a trusted source.
4. Support mental health
If challenging mood swings, bouts of feeling low and anxious are still there, chances are that building blocks for the brain and cognitive function may need an extra boost.
Getting 7-9h of undisturbed deep sleep can boost memory, improve immunity and balance the emotional state (5), whereas meditation can help respond to the negative environment with more resilience (6). So, it may be time to hit the meditation cushion for some extra calm.
Once again, pay close attention to blood sugar balance, as spikes and crashes will increase stress levels (increased adrenaline and cortisol) and will interfere with happiness (serotonin), motivation (dopamine) and sleep (melatonin) hormones.
Provide your mind with plenty of ‘brain food’- proteins (or supplement with amino acids, if digestion is impaired), good quality fats and complex carbs. Choose a good source of omega-3 for at least six months to a year, to rebuild the stores. If sun isn’t abundant where you live, supplement with vitamin
D from early autumn to middle of spring.