Link Between Anorexia Nervosa and Celiac Disease

Eating Disorders and Gluten Intolerance

Recent research has found a link between Anorexia Nervosa, which is a severe eating disorder and Celiac Disease, a chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal system.

Researchers found that women who have Celiac Disease are 2 times more likely to have Anorexia later in their life.

Also, women who were diagnosed prior to the age of 19 were likely, 4.5 times more, to have already received a diagnosis of Anorexia.

Both Disorders Involve an Increase in Attention to Diet

Link anorexia nervosa celiac disease

Celiac Disease affects 1 in 141 US adults according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Anorexia Nervosa, commonly known as Anorexia, effects 1% of American women.  It also affects boys and men, but is more common in younger females. (At least this is what statistics suggest).

Common Symptoms of Anorexia and Celiac Disease

The characteristics of this illness are:

  • fear of putting on weight
  • distortion of perception in height
  • being underweight.

It is regularly accompanied by:

  • intense forms of maintaining or losing weight
  • and restriction of food.

Even though Anorexia is actually an eating disorder, typically it’s an attempt at coping with an emotional issue.

Those who suffer with Anorexia have often associated being happy with being thin.

What's celiac disease?
Anorexia diagnosis was on average 17 years of age

Researchers searched about 18,000 women’s medical histories of those who had gastrointestinal disorder.  Also, about 89,000 without, totaling about 107,000 participants. The average age women were diagnosed with Celiac disease was 28 years.

Whilst looking through their medical histories, researchers found that 353 females were diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa diagnosis prior to their Celiac diagnosis. The average age of these women had an Anorexia diagnosis was 17 years of age.

An extra 54 women had an Anorexia diagnosis after being diagnosed with Celiac disease. In comparison, just 180 out of the 89,000 females who were not Celiacs received a diagnosis of Anorexia.

Research Results

This research indicates that females over 20 years of age who were already diagnosed with having Celiac Disorder had twice the chance compared to women whithout the disease to have Anorexia in their later years.

Additionally, women who had Celiac Disease prior to turning 19 years of age were 4.5 times more likely to have have had a previous diagnosis of Anorexia.

This study’s focus was to discover a link between these two diseases diagnoses but didn’t look into reasons for the findings. Authors K.T. Park and Neville H. Golden did, however, discuss possible reasons for the findings.

Possible Reasons for the Link between Celiac and Anorexia

Considering both diseases usually have very similar symptoms, the issue might be a misdiagnosis. Both disorders often include reduced body weight with a focus on diet.Link anorexia nervosa celiac disease

Also suggested by the authors is the fact that women already with a Celiac diagnosis could have more of a likelihood to develop Anorexia, considering their existing focus on food they consume.

This might trigger the development of Anorexia in females who already are vulnerable to eating disorders.