Anorexia may be linked to the balance of bacteria in the gut, new research suggests.
People with the eating disorder have fewer and less diverse communities of microbes in their digestive tracts compared to those without the disorder, the study found.
This imbalance could be associated with some of the psychological symptoms of the condition, such as depression, anxiety and further desire for weight loss, the researchers said.
Previous studies have linked the gut microbiota – the trillions of bacteria that affect digestive health and immunity – with brain health.
findings suggest microbes in the intestinal tract may affect the ‘gut-brain axis’, the researchers said.
This is the biochemical signalling that takes place between the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system, which plays an important role in healthy brain function.
Gut bacteria are involved in this signalling, and so an imbalance in bacteria could affect the brain.
Serious eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorders affect an estimated 5 per cent of women and 2 per cent of men in the UK.