Having a Food Sensitivity Rescue Plan for Life’s Storms

When was the last time this happened to you?

You get up with a plan for the day and then somewhere along the line, something interrupted your plans.  And I'm thinking more of the big life-changing kinds of things - the death of a loved one, a medical diagnosis out of the blue, a change in work or life status, etc.  These are the things that change your day, but also potentially change what you had planned for your life.  Sounds heavy, but let's just be really real.  Because when this stuff happens, and it will happen to all of us, our priorities and coping mechanisms change.  

When the really big stressors happen, our energy and attention is focused on making it through the day.  Suddenly, what we're eating and the stuff we react to isn't as much of a priority.  Our brains focus on the biggest threat in each moment.  In fact, that's what your brain is doing every moment of every day - keeping you safe from threats.  But when the proverbial poop hits the fan, sometimes we just eat what is available so we can keep going.

In my personal experience, there is usually a bit of grace in those situations, e.g. my gut doesn't react as badly to a trigger food as if it were just the average Friday afternoon (thank you, adrenaline and cortisol!), but there will still be repercussions to our food choices.  If you haven't already figured out a handful of your safe foods that you can go to without a lot of thought or effort, consider doing so.  After working in the Florida public health system for many years, I got really used to planning for disasters…and now I apply the same concepts to my food sensitivities!  Have a plan.  (Hmmm…more to come on this one!)

But when the situation is so completely unexpected it feels you're surviving moment to moment (or so big - like a hurricane or pandemic), it also pays to have a Rescue Plan.  At some point, bad food is better than no food.  And when the bad food includes your trigger foods, your rescue plan is what keeps you from completely decompensating into symptoms and illness.  

While each of us will have a somewhat different Rescue Plan, here are a bunch of the items included in mine. These are the things I use to manage symptoms once they start; they can help with prevention, too.  For some perspective, I am allergic to dairy, gluten-sensitive and I deal with histamine intolerance.  My symptoms are mostly GI anymore - burning stomach, heartburn, bloating, loose stools, and weight gain.  My story is not the same as yours and some of these items may work for you while others may not…but it's a place to start building your own Rescue Plan!

  1. Glutamine.  This amino acid has been a part of my life for over twenty years.  When my stomach burns because of too much histamine, acid or "bad food", it can take the burn away with each dose.  At my worst, I'll take about 5 Grams of powder stirred into a small amount of water 2-3 times a day on an empty tummy.  Also lovely in the middle of the night!  If you're sensitive to corn, be aware most glutamine products are made of corn.  But it's worth the hunt to find one you can use.
  2. DGL.  You gotta wonder about a kid who only goes by his initials!  This is deglycyrrhizinated licorice.  They remove a compound from the licorice which can cause high blood pressure and affect women's hormones.  DGL is pretty safe and helps to calm the upper GI tract.  It helps with mucous production which is great for protection from stomach acid and helps to feed some of your beneficial gut bacteria.  Chewing 1-2 tablets before meals can work better than some antacids.  If you're not sure about the dose, just follow the directions on the bottle!
  3. DAO.  This is the enzyme your body uses to break down histamine in your gut.  That histamine may be from what you eat or even gut dysbiosis.  If histamine intolerance is in your story, this needs to be in your pocket or purse all the time.  1-2 caps before a meal (or during, if you forget) is enough to take 95% of the burn out of my tummy and keep bowel movements more normal (instead of the glorious gastric sneezes of years gone by).  DAO is an animal product but there are vegan alternatives out there!
  4. Tulsi tea.  Also known as Holy Basil, this is my absolute favorite for calming my gut and my head.  Tulsi is an adaptogen so it helps me stay clear(er)-minded and calmer in the middle of really stressful situations…not to mention it's cozy as a hot tea or lovely as an iced tea!  You can also find this as a capsule, but why miss out on the comforting minty flavor?!
  5. Butyrate.  When low gut is the problem area (think lower abdomen instead of tummy area), sodium butyrate is absolutely my go-to!  There are several different forms - sodium butyrate, magnesium butyrate, calcium butyrate - but they all do the same thing: replace a short chain fatty acid naturally occuring in your colon.  Regardless of the cause of gut inflammation, this one can really help cool things off.  I used to take one capsule twice a day, and would again if I were having any symptoms or if my daily food choices include more trigger foods than not. 
  6. Lay's potato chips.  Yup.  Salt, carb, and crunch.  They're the perfect food for me when I am stressed to my max.  And those three things help to calm my tummy, too!  Not to mention they keep me away from the Oreo's!
  7. Humming.  Yup.  Not what you expected, right?  This is Vagus nerve stimulation and helps to reinforce a safety message in my body.  We could spend 2.5 months talking about polyvagal theory and the crazy amazing stuff our brains do.  Suffice it to say, I know humming will calm my anxiety, settle my tummy and help me focus.  These big, crazy storms affect every part of your body - don't forget to look for rescue tools for those other parts, too.

The cool thing about all of these is they can be used as prevention and maintenance when you're not having any symptoms or in the midst of those great big ugly stressors when all the other food safety nets have been lost in the craziness.  

More than anything, when you find yourself in what feels like an impossible situation, be kind to yourself.  If you eat something you "shouldn't", leave the shame at the door and just take care of you.  We all do our best when we are stuck in the middle of a storm.  And "doing our best" rarely looks perfect.  

But to help minimize your symptoms and food reactions in the tough situations, consider putting together your own Food Sensitivity Rescue Plan!  

Sixty-second Self-care Tip…

Since today's post is a lot about my personal experience, I'll share one more quick tidbit.  

Seems when I am in the middle of a stormy life change, I need more hugs.  I need to get them, but I also find I need to give more hugs, too.  A good squeeze is therapeutic!  Hugs help calm the nervous system and increase safety cues in the brain.  (Which also helps your gut do its thing better!)

How can you increase your daily hug quota?  And keep in mind you can get creative - there is no cheating with hugs!  Hug a loved one or a pet.  Grab a stuffed animal and give it a squeeze.  A pillow will work, too!  And if you want or need something more along the lines of a big bear hug, consider a weighted blanket if you don't have one.  

Have questions about how to put together your own Rescue Plan?  Just email me at melissa@melissaoverman.com and I'll happily offer some suggestions specifically for your story and situation! 


butyrate, DAO, DGL, glutamine, hugs, Rescue Plan, vagus nerve

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