Co-occurrence of Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction and Feeding and Eating Disorders in Adolescence: Prevalence, Complications, and Clinical Management

2021 Award: $40,396

A body of research is emerging that links Feeding and Eating Disorders (FEDs) to adults with Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction (DGBI). Surprisingly, very little research has been conducted on FEDs among adolescents with DGBI. In this project, we will estimate the prevalence and identify psychiatric comorbidities and health-related symptoms of FEDs in a clinical sample of adolescents with DGBI. Data derived from the study will inform novel treatments for youth with co-occurring DGBI/FEDs that are expected to be mutually beneficial to improving patient outcomes across both fields.

Need/Problem: Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction (DGBI) involve impairing gastrointestinal symptoms occurring due to miscommunication between the gut and the brain. DGBI affect 1 in 4 youth in the community and > 50% of youth in Pediatric Gastroenterology specialty clinics. Although difficulties with eating are common in youth with DGBI, studies systematically examining Feeding and Eating Disorders (FEDs) and any relation to DGBI symptoms in youth with DGBI are lacking.

Grant Summary: We will examine the co-occurrence of DGBI and FEDs among treatment-seeking adolescents at the UNC Center for Pediatric Disorders of Gut-Brain Interaction. We will also examine any associations between DGBI, FEDs, and emotional- and health-related outcomes. Participants will also provide saliva (genotyping) and fecal (microbiome) samples to be archived for future analysis.

Goals and Projected Outcomes: This study will provide preliminary data on the prevalence of FED diagnoses and behaviors in an adolescent DGBI clinical sample and an initial characterization of the DGBI/FEDs co-morbidity. Data derived from the study will support additional funding to develop novel interventions for co-occurring DGBI/FEDs.

Camden Matherne, PhD

Grant Details: Epidemiological data suggest FEDs are common in youth with chronic gastrointestinal symptoms and DGBIs are commonly diagnosed in individuals with eating disorders. However, our knowledge about the co-occurrence of these conditions and their mutual impact on outcome is scant. Documenting the prevalence of FEDs and the clinical characteristics of co-occurring DGBI and FEDs will inform patient care for DGBI and facilitate detection and early intervention of FEDs in this vulnerable population. In this project, we will estimate prevalence and identify psychiatric comorbidities and health-related symptoms of FEDs in a clinically severe sample of youth with DGBI, which will allow an intensive initial examination of this comorbidity. Results will provide preliminary data for subsequent funding to develop a treatment for co-occurring DGBI/FEDs and establish a database and sample collection for future interdisciplinary research.