Food Reintroduction Online Learning

The food reintroduction support plan consists of four video-conference appointments and online learning. Here’s an overview of the timeline. Click for a larger view.

In the past, I would rush into making a food reintroduction plan in our first appointment. However, clients are more successful when they “prepare the soil, before planning the seeds” as one client aptly described it. The online learning program and workbook will help you prepare for food reintroduction. The workbook (complete online or print and complete) has reflection questions to help you deepen your understanding of the concepts. Please complete it before your second video conference appointment.  Typically, clients spend about five hours completing the online learning and workbook.

Clients can also access nineteen additional articles in Living Well with a Restricted Diet.

The online learning is organized into four main topics. The private client articles provide more details on each topic.

1) Fight-or-Flight and Food Sensitivity

The Window of Tolerance Theory is a widely used tool to help understand emotional regulation. Dr. Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry from the UCLA School of Medicine, develop this theory.  I believe, this theory can also help explain the effect of stress on food sensitivity. The three zones of nervous system function are:

  • Hyperarousal: Sympathetic nervous system stimulation - “Fight -or-Flight Response.”
  • Optimal Arousal: often referred to as the “Window of Tolerance.”
  • Hypoarousal: Parasympathetic nervous system stimulation - “Freeze Response.”

Individuals suffering from chronic health conditions are often in fight-or-flight. In this zone, the nervous system is on “high alert,” the digestive and immune systems are impaired, and these systems are not working efficiently together. In this weakened state, the body is vulnerable to develop food sensitivities and existing food sensitivities will be more intense.

Janelle’s journey illustrates the impact of fight-or-flight. Janelle suffers from abdominal pain and headaches. When she noticed symptoms starting, her mind would dwell on worrisome thoughts (How bad will it get? What food caused this?). Over the months, her symptom flares kept getting worse and her diet more restricted. Eventually, she realized that the unpleasant symptom sensations triggered her fight-or-flight response, which intensified the symptoms and created a negative cycle, where she rapidly spiraled downward.

Private Client Articles:

2) Change How You Respond to Symptoms

Learning to respond to your symptoms with a different mindset, will help keep you out of the fight-or-flight downward spiral.

Janelle decided to change how she responded to her symptoms. When she noticed symptoms starting, she focused on calming her mind and body. Instead of making impulsive changes (e.g. internet research, further diet restriction), she observed her symptoms for a few days before taking thoughtful action. She still experienced abdominal pain and headaches, but she was not getting into a negative, downward spiral. Her symptoms were no longer controlling her life.

The following suggestions are not a substitute for your physician’s recommendations for treating symptoms (especially an epinephrine autoinjector).

Private Client Articles:

3) Relax Food Fears

When you search for answers to chronic health concerns, you will find negative food messages. These messages damage our relationship with food. Changing these perceptions will help you tolerate a greater variety of food.

When Janelle first started getting abdominal pains and headaches, she was enjoying a regular diet. As she started researching and talking to different health professionals, she learned a lot of scary things about food. She started to suspect that food was the cause of her symptoms and began eliminating. However, the more she eliminated, the worse her food sensitivities got. Calmly responding to her symptoms helped, but she still had a lot of food sensitivities. She realized the negative food messages had become deeply engrained and it was going to take some time to reverse them.

Private Client Articles:

4) Reintroduce Food

Clients have often gone through a vicious cycle of food restriction, leading to additional food sensitivities and further restriction. With food reintroduction, we are reversing this cycle!

Janelle was tired of living on a bland, restricted diet. Calmly responding to her symptoms and relaxing her food fears was great preparation for reintroducing food. She found that positive food visualizations before reintroducing was helpful. Once she started reintroducing, she found it difficult to go slow because everything tasted so good! Learning that overeating is a common experience when reintroducing food, helped her relax and eat mindfully. Over the next six months, Janelle reintroduced several foods and was enjoying a more liberal diet. Most importantly, she had a better relationship with food.  She still had symptoms and had to avoid some foods, but her quality of life was much better.

Private Client Articles:

Janelle was not an actual client. I’m using story-telling to communicate information.