Tame Your Food Sensitivity Fears & Start Living

Food related fear is common when you suffer from food sensitivity. Fear intensifies your symptoms, making life difficult. When you are trapped by fear, it is hard to see a way out.

I will help you recognize and step back from the thought patterns that are causing this fear. My support program is a unique combination of self-study and six private appointments. When you register for the program, I will send you the Tame Your Food Sensitivity Fears & Start Living workbook. There are five main topics in the workbook (see topic summaries below). After reviewing the articles and videos in each topic, you answer the self-reflection questions in the workbook. During your private appointments, we will discuss your insights and make a plan to move forward.

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

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, and she has been told that she has a leaky gut. When she noticed symptoms starting, her mind would dwell on worrisome thoughts (How bad will it get? What food caused this? From the many different treatment options for leaky gut, which one should I try?). 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.

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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 auto-injector).

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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.

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4) Daily Visualization & Affirmation Practice

Positive food visualizations and affirmations are powerful tools to actively change how our brain and body respond to food and other challenges.

Janelle started a daily practice that included visualizing healing light spreading from the food in her body and scenes where she was enjoying food with her family. Additionally, she visualized being inside her digestive system and applying a healing ointment that made her digestive cells rejuvenate and heal her leaky gut.  

5) 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 her bland, restricted diet. Calmly responding to her symptoms, relaxing her food fears and changing the way her brain responded to food through positive visualizations was great preparation for expanding her diet. It was 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 enjoyed her healthy, tasty new diet. Most importantly, she had a better relationship with food.  She still had a few symptoms and had to avoid some foods, but her quality of life was much better.

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