Eating Disorder Recovery

Biochemical Factors in Eating Disorder Recovery… A Brief Summary!

endED: Dr Leane Barron at The Farm – Video on YouTube

This is quite a long but fascinating talk on YouTube, given by Dr Barron, an eating disorder specialist, about the biochemical factors to consider in eating disorder recovery.  Definitely have a watch if you can!

I did though take notes and thought I would share them in case you CBA to watch it yourself!

The talk mainly covers biochemical processes that are vital for an optimally functioning human body which can be suppressed when we have an eating disorder and what we need to give the body so it has the best chance to heal….

Here are some of the things she spoke about:

 – The thyroid gland is key to maintain our metabolism.  When starved, the body goes into a ’hibernation’ & the altered thyroid pathways cause the metabolism to drop, so the body survives on less fuel. 

Two key nutrients to repair the thyroid function are salt & zinc…. 

I have always been intrigued to see so many have peanut butter cravings in recovery and this makes sense as it’s salty & nuts are high in zinc!


 – Dietary cholesterol is crucial.  ‘Bad fats’ are what we need.

These are key for creating bile salts to help digestion, as well as creating cortisol, hormones & vitamin D.

 Many other essential vitamins are also fat soluble so need fats to be absorbed.

Therefore, get eating all the traditional cholesterol filled ‘bad’ fats you are craving and know it is helping you recover!


 – Serotonin is a chemical in the brain, noted to be the ‘feel good’ chemical.. 

In an eating disorder we don’t produce enough serotonin. 

Dietary serotonin is in foods like turkey, peas and milk and the body also needs iron, calcium, vitamins C & B6, folate & zinc to create more.

 – Carbs are also key in helping chemicals to cross the blood brain barrier.  When we are low on serotonin we crave carbs to help this process – so carbs are definitely good!


 – Magnesium is another key electrolyte in the body that becomes deficient in eating disorders and we get this from eggs and cocoa (more chocolate please?!?)..


 – The gut is of course key in recovery as we need it to work well!  

The gut ideally takes 30% of our energy to function but it is a low priority for a starved body trying to keep little things like the heart beating as a priority, hence the stomach problems many with eating disorders experience.

Apparently stewed apple is excellent to help bile & digestion and she recommended two spoons of stewed apple with each meal!

There is a lot of evolving research linking gut bacteria to health conditions, including mental health.

Various probiotics are being used to help treat other illnesses (including anxiety & depression) but the research is still coming out and it is likely to be years before they are fully implemented in clinical practice.


 – Zinc also came up a lot in the talk… as well as the above functions, it also helps aid appetite & positively affects stomach acids.


 – Phosphate levels are crucial to life and can drop in an eating disorder and even more so when refeeding in early recovery.  Phosphate is found in dates & dairy foods.


 – Vitamin D was also covered widely – we need Vitamin D to absorb calcium and it helps prevent cancers.

Alongside this vitamin K is crucial for blood clotting etc & found in brie, butter, gouda.


Dr Barron did reiterate that people in eating disorder recovery should be nothing less than pescatarian as we need so many key nutrients that a vegan diet can never give.

But if we eat a diet that has lots of everything in it we should get the majority of the nutrients, vitamins & minerals the body needs to repair fully.

Her take home message… in recovery you will crave foods the body needs – so let it guide!

We need a lot of energy after an eating disorder but if we eat what we need, our future can still be very healthy as just about all the damage from the years of malnutrition is reversible. 

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