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The Connection Between Dysphagia and Eating Disorders

The Connection Between Dysphagia and Eating Disorders

Swallowing issues, medically known as dysphagia, can occasionally arise as a consequence of restrictive eating behaviors or chronic self-induced vomiting associated with eating disorders. While less common in the context of eating disorders, dysphagia can still cause a significant  impact on an individual’s ability to consume and tolerate various foods and textures. Additionally, a specific type of eating disorder called avoidant restriction food intake disorder (ARFID) can present as fear of or = perceived sensations of food becoming stuck in the throat.

Why Dysphagia is Problematic

  • Limited Dietary Options: Difficulty or pain when swallowing certain foods can lead to a narrowed range of tolerated foods. Individuals may avoid textures or types of food that trigger discomfort, resulting in a restricted diet lacking essential nutrients.

  • Fear and Avoidance: Dysphagia can reinforce fears and anxieties related to eating. Fear of choking or experiencing pain while swallowing can contribute to avoidance behaviors, further exacerbating disordered eating patterns.

Seeking Support and Guidance

If you are struggling with swallowing difficulties, it is helpful to seek expert assistance in managing these challenges effectively. Consider the following steps for addressing these issues within the context of your eating disorder:

  • Consult Digestive Health and ED Specialists:
    • A registered dietitian knowledgeable in gastrointestinal health and eating disorders can help you navigate dietary modifications to ease swallowing, re-establish regular eating habits and address and heal negative thoughts/feeling/beliefs towards food.
    • ED therapists familiar with the gut-brain connection can help further support healing relationships with food, body and regulating mental health.
    • In many cases, more specialized experts such as gastroenterologists, ENT providers, and speech and language pathologists will be necessary to complete additional diagnostic work up and recommend alternate medical/pharmacological interventions.
  • Develop a Comprehensive Treatment Plan: a team of providers can help you to develop a thorough treatment plan that addresses the physical and psychological aspects of your eating disorder.
  • Prioritize Re-Nourishment: often times symptoms of dysphagia can improve over time with nutritional restoration.

Embracing Wellness and Recovery

By acknowledging the impact of dysphagia on eating disorders and proactively seeking support, individuals can take significant steps towards recovery. Remember, addressing digestive issues is an essential component of restoring physical health and fostering a positive relationship with food and body. Reach out to specialists today to embark on a journey of healing, nourishment, and self-care.

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