A recent study has found a connection between Celiac Disease, a chronic gastrointestinal disorder, and Anorexia Nervosa, a serious eating disorder. Researchers discovered that women who had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease were 2 times as likely to develop Anorexia later in life, and women diagnosed before age 19 were 4.5 times more likely to have previously received an Anorexia diagnosis.

Both illnesses involve increased attention to food

Celiac Disease is a chronic digestive disorder that affects 1 out of every 141 US adults, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It is an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to be activated every time a person ingests food containing gluten.

Over time, this can lead to damage in the small intestine which inhibits nutrient absorption and causes severe malnutrition. Someone diagnosed with this disorder must avoid foods containing wheat, barley, rye, and some varieties of oats.

Anorexia Nervosa, most commonly referred to as Anorexia, is an eating disorder that affects 1% of American women. Although it can also affect men and boys, Anorexia is most common in young women. This illness is characterized by low body weight, a fear of gaining weight, and a distorted perception of one's weight. It is often accompanied by severe methods of losing or maintaining one's weight, including restricting the amount of food one eats. Although Anorexia is an eating disorder, it is typically an attempt to cope with some other emotional issue. People suffering from Anorexia have often come to associate being thin with happiness.

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A Swedish study finds a connection between the diagnosis of these two illnesses

A recent study conducted by Swedish scientists has found a connection between the diagnoses of Celiac Disease and Anorexia Nervosa. Researchers looked into the medical histories of almost 18,000 women with the gastrointestinal disorder and just over 89,000 without, for a total of approximately 107,000 participants. The median age at which women received their Celiac diagnosis was 28 years.

While looking at the medical histories of the participants, researchers discovered that 353 women received an Anorexia Nervosa diagnosis before being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. The median age at which these women were diagnosed with Anorexia was 17 years. An Additional 54 women were diagnosed with Anorexia after they had been diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder. In comparison, only 180 of the 89,000 women who did not have Celiac Disease received an Anorexia diagnosis.

This research shows that women over the age of 20 who had already been diagnosed with Celiac Disease were twice as likely as women without this digestive disorder to develop Anorexia later in life.

Additionally, women diagnosed with Celiac Disease before their 19th birthdays were 4.5 times as likely to have been previously diagnosed with Anorexia.

The focus of this study was to find a correlation between the diagnoses of these two diseases and did not look into the possible reasons for their findings. Lead authors Neville H. Golden and K.T. Park did discuss possible causes for their findings. As both illnesses often have similar symptoms, it could be an issue of misdiagnosis. Both disorders are associated with low body weight and a focus on food. They also suggest that women who have already been diagnosed with Celiac Disease may be more likely to develop Anorexia, as they already focus a lot on the food they eat. This could trigger the onset of Anorexia in women who are already susceptible to eating disorders.