Can Anorexia Cause Constipation?

Can Anorexia Cause Constipation?

Woman sitting back on a couch hold her stomach in pain.

People with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa undergo plenty of body changes. Symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, and extreme weight loss are commonly recognized as resulting complications of anorexia, but those aren’t all that someone has to endure. Because of how much the body changes internally, constipation can be one of the biggest warning signs and symptoms people deal with either during or after recovery from this mental health condition. We’ll look at how anorexia causes constipation and what can be done to combat it.

Is Constipation a Warning Sign/Symptom of Anorexia?

What comes to mind when you think about the most common signs and symptoms of anorexia? Most images you find will be of someone showing signs of weight loss or forcibly not eating a meal in front of them. While these symptoms are common, these images marginalize the many other effects anorexia can have on the body. Here are just some of the signs and symptoms of anorexia:

  • Extreme weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Dry or yellowed skin
  • Thinning hair
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Swelling of arms and legs
  • Abnormal blood count

As you can see, this mental health condition affects anything from your appearance to the operation of major organs in the body. Anorexia also impacts your body’s digestive system majorly, often resulting in constipation. Eating disorders often result in abdominal pain or bloating. Studies from the Gastrointestinal Motility Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital show that 19% of adults with chronic constipation were also diagnosed with some kind of eating disorder.

Additionally, constipation can also result from recovery from anorexia due to increased consumption of painkillers or other medication. Constipation can also occur when eating certain foods in excess, which can be the case for individuals with anorexia nervosa treatment plans that focus on eating a specific type of food.

How Anorexia Affects the Digestive System

To understand how anorexia affects the body, you must take a trip into the digestive system. The outward symptoms of anorexia are fairly obvious, but understanding constipation starts where it occurs. Let’s explore the digestive system’s elements that change due to restrictive food intake.

Anorexia Reduces the Movement of Intestinal Muscles

Less food leads to slower movement of the muscles responsible for digesting the food. This makes individuals feel fuller faster by extending the time it takes to digest meals. Meals that often take a few hours to digest can double or triple that time frame, leading to constipation.

Anorexia Leads to Decreased Secretion of Enzymes Used in Digestion

Our digestive enzymes help break down food into easily absorbed compnents. Anorexia leads to organs that don’t perform as they should, which slows down the enzyme secretion process and makes it harder for food to pass through the intestines without causing pain.

Anorexia Causes a Breakdown of the Surface of Your Intestines and Stomach

A lack of proper nutrients is at the root of many eating disorder issues. Failing to consume adequate protein can result in the body metabolizing the intestinal muscles as a food source, causing constipation and pain.

Anorexia Reduces the Functionality of Your Thyroid Glands

Thyroid glands regulate your metabolism, which adapts to restricted food intake by preserving your energy expenditure. This can lead to pain and other symptoms in your abdominal tract.

Anorexia Reduces the Acid Concentration in Your Stomach

In addition to the decreased secretion of enzymes, your stomach will also reduce the acid it produces to break down food when it doesn’t receive adequate amounts of food to support it. As a result, digestion will be much slower or even cause bacteria growth, making it difficult to eat or digest food.

Treating Anorexia Is the Only Way to Prevent Constipation and Other Long Term Effects

Constipation is usually a complication of anorexia, and it’s important to focus on treating the main issue. Falling into habits and beliefs that the problem revolves around the symptoms of anorexia will only make things worse. Medical professionals can provide the right treatment methods and solutions for those searching for ways to battle anorexia nervosa and its symptoms, so reach out to Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment.

Programs like our residential eating disorder treatment provide supervision and expert assistance for those needing specialized care. With various options available, contact us today at 562-434-6007 if you or a loved one need help recovering from anorexia or any other eating disorder.