Disordered Eating and Eating Disorder

Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are complex, chronic illnesses largely misunderstood and misdiagnosed. The most common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating. No one knows exactly what causes an eating disorder, however it can be found among all socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural groups. Eating disorders have numerous physical, psychological and social ramifications from significant weight preoccupation, inappropriate eating behaviour and body image distortion. Many people with eating disorders experience depression, anxiety, substance abuse, childhood abuse and may be at risk of osteoporosis and heart problems.


Disordered Eating

Disordered eating is a term used to describe eating habits or patterns that are irregular. Many different types of disordered eating habits exist but for the most part these habits do not add up to a diagnosis of an eating disorder. Excluding whole food groups (for example, all fats or all carbohydrates), eating only specific foods, eating only foods of a specific colour, eating only foods of a specific texture, not eating certain foods together in a sitting and not eating specific foods from the same plate can all be types of disordered eating.

Disordered eating can also be described as changes in eating patterns that occur in relation to a stressful event, an illness, personal appearance or in preparation for athletic competition. Disordered eating also involves people who have no time to eat or plan their meals properly, who often eat fast food or miss meals especially breakfast and who are not aware of their body signals of hunger or fullness.


Differences between Eating Disorder and Disordered Eating

  • Eating disorders are chronic and most often even complex illnesses which need concrete treatment and therapies for effective control. Disordered eating on the other hand is not complex enough to be categorised as an illness.
  • Some of the prominent forms of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and bulimia. All of them are known to have damaging repercussions on health. Disordered eating might not have specific names as such. Some forms of dieting or resorting to diet pills and weight loss supplements can also be considered as forms of disordered eating.
  • Whereas eating disorders are most often persistent conditions which might last through the years if left untreated, disordered eating sprees are considered to be rare phenomenon. They might occur as isolated spells and no prevalent trends can be established for the same.
  • Eating disorder can often be considered responsible for serious repercussions. Alternatively, disordered eating is considerably less harmful leading to some nutritional insufficiencies alone.
  • Disordered eating is mostly atypical while the same cannot be said about eating disorders.
  • Disordered eating can often develop into an eating disorder. The reverse however, is not possible.


Several studies in the last decade show that eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours are related to other health risk behaviours including tobacco use, alcohol and drug abuse, delinquency, unprotected sexual activity and suicide attempts.

While disordered eating can lead to weight loss or weight gain and to certain nutritional problems, it rarely requires in depth professional attention. However, it may develop into an eating disorder. If disordered eating becomes sustained, distressing or begins to interfere with everyday activities, then it may require professional evaluation.



Insulin – Function and Importance

Insulin was the first hormone identified in 1920s, which won the doctor and medical student who discovered it the Nobel Prize (Banting and Best).


Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates the level of glucose, a simple sugar that provides energy, in the blood. The human body requires a steady amount of glucose throughout the day and that glucose comes from the foods that we eat.


The pancreas lies at the back of the abdomen behind the stomach and has two main functions:

To produce juices that flow into the digestive system to help us digest food

To produce the hormone called insulin. 


Insulin is the key hormone that controls the flow of glucose (sugar) in and out of the cells of the body. Carbohydrates (or sugars) are absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream after a meal. Insulin is then secreted by the pancreas in response to this detected increase in blood sugar. Most cells of the body have insulin receptors which bind the insulin which is in the circulation.  When a cell has insulin attached to its surface, the cell activates other receptors designed to absorb glucose (sugar) from the blood stream into the inside of the cell.


The role of insulin can be categorised as follows:


Insulin is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body

Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle

Insulin stops the use of fat as an energy source by inhibiting the release of glucagon

As its level is a central metabolic control mechanism, its status is also used as a control signal to other body systems (such as amino acid uptake by body cells

Insulin also influences other body functions, such as vascular compliance and cognition. Once insulin enters the human brain, it enhances learning and memory and in particular benefits verbal memory.



Soluble fibre and Insoluble fibre – Importance in the diet

The main function of fibre is to keep the digestive system healthy and functioning properly. Fibre aids and speeds up the excretion of waste and toxins from the body preventing them from sitting in the intestine or bowel for too long and creating a build-up of toxins.



The 2 main types of fibre are:


  • Water-insoluble fibre
  • Water-soluble fibre

Fibre passes through the body virtually unchanged along with other digested food until it arrives at the large intestine. What happens next depends on the type of fibre present.



Insoluble fibre
In the case of insoluble fibre, it promotes the growth of a certain friendly bacteria that ferment and make the waste material soft and bulky. This in turn helps the waste to pass through the intestines quicker to the bowel and out of the body.


Insoluble fibre prevents constipation by adding bulk and liquid to aid movement and promote regular bowel movements. A larger and softer stool is able to pass through the intestines and bowel more easily and fluidly and is easier to evacuate.



Insoluble fibre can be found in foods such as bran, wholemeal flour and breads, brown rice, whole grain cereals, vegetables, edible peels of fruit, nuts and seeds.



Soluble fibre
Soluble fibre absorbs water in the intestine, which softens the stool and helps the waste material move through the body more quickly.
It is thought that soluble fibre may help to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. This is due to the fact that soluble fibre binds the cholesterol from food or from bile acids preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. This is then eliminated as waste, as the fibre cannot be digested.



Soluble fibre-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, lentils, peas, beans, oats, barley, oatmeal, potatoes, dried fruit, soya milk and soya products.


Eating a diet that does not contain enough fibre can lead to bowel irregularities and stomach discomforts. Foods that contain no or little fibre include refined cereals and white bread, meat and animal products, dairy produce and fast foods.


Helicobacter pylori – Possible Herbal Remedy

Helicobacter pylori can inhabit various areas of the stomach. It can cause inflammation of the stomach lining impairing stomach defences and can be responsible for ulcers.


The two herbs that can be used for treating Helicobacter pylori are:


  • Golden seal

Golden seal is a bitter that stimulates the secretion and flow of bile and can also be used as an expectorant. It has a strong activity against a variety of bacteria, yeast and fungi such as E. Coli and Candida.
Golden seal is used for infections of the mucous membranes, including the mouth, sinuses, throat, the intestines and the stomach and is useful for digestive disorders including ulcers and Helicobacter pylori.


  • Oregano

Oregano as an antiseptic is used as a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments. Oregano is high in antioxidant activity due to high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids.
The antimicrobial and antiseptic properties of oil of Oregano make it very useful against strains of the food-borne pathogen making it capable of destroying Helicobacter pylori.