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When You Have Celiac Disease and an Eating Disorder

Editor’s note: If you live with an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “NEDA” to 741-741.

Nobody noticed when I started checking nutrition labels. Nobody noticed when I started refusing food at social events. Nobody noticed when I asked about the ingredients in every single thing I ate. If they did notice, it wasn’t a reason for concern.

The thing is — I have celiac disease.

I always have to be aware of what I eat, because a gluten-filled mistake is painful and destructive to my body. Prior to my diagnosis of celiac disease I was underweight, tired, achey, had constant stomach pain, headaches and a host of other symptoms. All of these problems were caused by food. One specific little protein was destroying my body. I cut it out, and I felt better. I also gained weight. I was healthy.

Fast forward a few years, and I was struggling again. This time, mentally. I believe that in some part of my brain I had made an association between feeling miserable and eating. And when I had cut out gluten, I felt better. But I didn’t want to stop eating. So I began purging behaviors. I became obsessed with the endorphin rush that behavior gave me. I ignored the headaches, burning throat and blood vessel freckles. A few months later, I was still miserable. Getting rid of the food after eating it wasn’t working. So I cut calories. Initially, I felt better. But then it wasn’t enough.

I restricted more and more. I was never satisfied as I watched the number on the scale go down. My life revolved around losing weight and not eating. My health began to decline: my heart rate dropped, my nails turned blue, my hair was falling out.

I thought I had to keep going — just a little longer and then I would feel better. Changing my eating had fixed me before, and I had no reason not to think it wouldn’t this time.

But I ended up in an inpatient unit. And recovery isn’t easy, but I keep trying my best.

I believe that there is a link between my celiac disease and anorexia. Because of my celiac, I will never be stop checking nutrition labels, refusing certain foods at social events or asking about ingredients. I will, however, stop letting those things control my life. I won’t use them as a way to fuel my anorexia. I didn’t choose my celiac diagnosis, but I can choose to make the best of life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, you can call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

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Thinkstock photo via olesia_agudova