By Christa Banister
Not eating regularly impacts the body in a variety of ways. According to research conducted by the University of Sydney shared on CNN, when blood glucose levels fall far enough after your last meal or snack, your brain — which is dependent on glucose for its many functions — views this as a threat. As a result, your concentration may be impaired, words may not come as easily, and you may even snap at someone.
For those who struggle with an eating disorder, these fluctuations in blood sugar and nutritional imbalances are particularly concerning. This isn’t a temporary state that everyone experiences from time to time when they go too long between meals, resulting in irritability and difficulty concentrating. For those with eating disorders, can the lack of regular nutrition also cause mood swings or even mood disorders?
How What and When We Eat Matters
Studies have shown there is often a connection between eating disorders and mood swings. Without that steady source of fuel from food, our minds and bodies can’t function at their peak, resulting in eating disorder mood changes.
What are some behaviors that commonly lead to these fluctuations?
- Skipping a meal
Missing a meal, particularly breakfast, can lead to low blood sugar that leaves you feeling tired, weak, or punchy (or all three).
- Eliminating entire food groups
It’s not easy getting all the vital nutrients your body needs without a variety of fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates. Low levels of iron, zinc, magnesium and vitamins B and D are often precursors to a decrease in energy and mood.
- Too many refined carbs
Soda, candy, white bread, pastries, and pasta all contribute to the dreaded sugar crash.
As more and more research links the importance of diet and nutrition with mental health, evidence has shown that food can impact the “development, prevention, and management of mental health conditions, including depression and anxiety disorders,” according to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.
In other words, eating regular meals that include a variety of vitamin-rich foods can have a protective effect on mental health. Regular exercise and drinking plenty of water has been shown to be helpful as well.
The Relationship Between Mood Disorders and Eating Disorders
In research conducted by the National Library of Medicine, mood disorders were more frequent among those struggling with anorexia and bulimia than the control group (of similar age and gender) who was not.
Differing from eating disorders and mood swings, mood disorders manifest in a number of ways, according to research from the Mayo Clinic. With a mood disorder, your general emotional state is distorted in a way that interferes with the ability to function.
One day, there may be feelings of extreme emptiness, sadness, or irritability consistent with depression. Another day, excessive happiness may alternate with depression, which is known as mania. This is why dual diagnosis eating disorders, particularly in women, are common, according to reporting in Psychiatric Times.
For those who’ve been diagnosed with an eating disorder who also struggle with a mood disorder, addressing both conditions is critically important. After medical complications as a result of anorexia in particular, suicide is the second most common cause of death. When considering treatment options for dual diagnosis eating disorders, one that centers on the whole person is essential.
Experts have found that an undernourished body can cause changes in the brain that affect mood in the same way that poor body image can trigger depression. Basically, one condition can directly affect the other and overlap. Mood disorders are a common comorbidity among patients with eating disorders and may also involve the abuse of alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism.
Hope for Those with Dual Diagnosis Eating Disorders
If you’re unsure whether you or your loved one may have an eating disorder, learning the warning signs can help. For those struggling with anorexia, bulimia, or disordered eating, there is hope with trusted, proven treatment for women and girls here at The Meadows Ranch. Our experienced team of professionals is here for you 24/7 with an approach that’s never one-size-fits-all and addresses any underlying or co-occurring conditions. For more information or to begin your recovery journey today, don’t hesitate to reach out.