ExMax Health: Orthorexia linked to gluten-free diet and celiac disease

We are all familiar with the various diagnosed eating disorders out there including Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia, and Binge Eating.  Now there is a new disorder emerging as the result of following a gluten-free diet called Orthorexia Nervosa (also known as “orthoexia”).

Well, it isn’t really new at all. It is a term coined by physician Steven Bratman in an article he wrote for Yoga Journal in 1997. It is not a traditionally recognized type of eating disorder but it does share some characteristics with both Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia, most specifically obsession with food.
Orthorexia refers to a fixation on eating “pure” or “right” or “proper” food rather than on the quantity of food consumed.

According to an article published on ExMax Health, those following a gluten-free diet can develop this “disorder.” Source: http://www.emaxhealth.com/12410/orthorexia-linked-gluten-free-diet-and-celiac-disease

Personally, I question the validity of this article and wonder what grain producing organization funded it?  To me there is absolutely nothing wrong with maintaining a healthy diet and those of us who are medically forced to follow a gluten-free lifestyle really have no choice but to carefully consider what we put in our bodies.  The consequences of being careless are often detrimental to us and I think it is a stretch to call our daily lifestyle a “disorder.”

Since the topic is making such a splash on social media these days, I thought I would share the article with you and see what you think about it.

sb10069429a-002.jpgYoung woman looking at plate of salad GETTY

There is a new disturbing trend that nutritionists are noticing among people who have celiac disease and those who simply follow a gluten-free diet by choice. Orthorexia nervosa is a disorder characterized by an obsessive need to eat healthy that leads to cutting out many foods. The obsession goes beyond a normal concern for staying healthy because it affects relationships, jobs and wellbeing.

Orthorexia is a fixation on eating healthy food that affects people’s lives in a negative way. This obsession leads to isolation from others, constant thoughts about food, punishments for eating the wrong thing and a lower quality of life. Diets can become extremely restrictive and affect overall health. People with orthorexia may experience vitamin or mineral deficiencies and dramatic weight loss.

The director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University points out that some people who suffer from celiac disease are also suffering from orthorexia. In addition, people who are on a gluten-free diet without a medical need are frequent victims of the disorder. They restrict their diets in dramatic and unhealthy ways that go beyond eliminating gluten.

Control is at the heart of orthorexia, so people must be willing to change how they think and view food to overcome this disorder. The social, emotional and physical aspects of the disease must be addressed for the patient to recover fully. Otherwise, they will continue to suffer as they obsess over every morsel of food that enters their bodies.

People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities are forced to change their diets, but they are in danger of taking it too far. Although it is important to eat healthy, obsessing over healthy versus unhealthy choices can lead people down a dangerous path. Experts point out that orthorexics use their diet as part of their self-esteem, routinely punish themselves for messing up and ignore serious health problems caused by the restricted diet. There is nothing wrong with caring about the food that fuels your body, but food should not become a fixation that destroys your health.



2 thoughts on “ExMax Health: Orthorexia linked to gluten-free diet and celiac disease

  1. I really do watch everything that i eat and i do it for a reason, My sensitivity to gluten is so high that after i have ate something with gluten in it, it takes 24 to 48 hours to get in my system and i am down for 2 days. My balance is so off that i can not function, Can not drive, stand up, stay awake, It really sucks and it took 2 years for Doctors to Figure it out. If i take watching what i eat to far it for a good reason. I want to feel alive and not like some zombie just laying down all day depressed wondering what is wrong .

    • I am the same way. I don’t think you can call what we have to do an eating disorder but it seems people are coming out of the woodwork to criticize gluten free living. They do not realize that we do not have a choice.

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