Are the Gut Bacteria Telling Us to Eat or Not to Eat? Reviewing the Role of Gut Microbiota in the Etiology, Disease Progression and Treatment of Eating Disorders

Nutrients. 2017 Jun 14;9(6):602. doi: 10.3390/nu9060602.


Traditionally recognized as mental illnesses, eating disorders are increasingly appreciated to be biologically-driven. There is a growing body of literature that implicates a role of the gut microbiota in the etiology and progression of these conditions. Gut bacteria may act on the gut-brain axis to alter appetite control and brain function as part of the genesis of eating disorders. As the illnesses progress, extreme feeding patterns and psychological stress potentially feed back to the gut ecosystem that can further compromise physiological, cognitive, and social functioning. Given the established causality between dysbiosis and metabolic diseases, an altered gut microbial profile is likely to play a role in the co-morbidities of eating disorders with altered immune function, short-chain fatty acid production, and the gut barrier being the key mechanistic links. Understanding the role of the gut ecosystem in the pathophysiology of eating disorders will provide critical insights into improving current treatments and developing novel microbiome-based interventions that will benefit patients with eating disorders.

Keywords: appetite control; eating disorders; gut microbiota; psychological stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dysbiosis
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / microbiology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome / physiology*
  • Humans