The connection between burnout and food sensitivities…

Remember the 3 little bears – the beds were too hard, too soft and just right and the porridge was too hot, too cold and just right??? 

As goofy as it all sounds, that is a good illustration for how our bodies work.  Depending on what we eat, how we sleep, environmental exposures like heavy metals and mold, and how we manage our stress, the processes in our body may run too fast, too slow or just right.

It’s all about balance. 

When we’re trying to solve the puzzle of food sensitivities, the same basics apply – we’re looking for balance.  And that becomes particularly challenging when there are so many different body systems involved with food sensitivities.

Think about it – our immune system, our gut, our hormones are just a few of the players – and each one of those is made up of multiple puzzle pieces and they all interact backwards and forwards. 

The one puzzle piece I will always come back to is stress management.  And that is because we are living in a world primed to keep us waiting for the next disaster, whether it be personal or international.  And for those of us with traumatic backgrounds, chronic stress is a reality we live with every day – regardless of how the rest of the world is doing. 

Our body makes cortisol and other hormones all day every day – with stress or without stress.  And that’s because hormones are responsible for maintaining that balance in our body. 

In fact, when cortisol, our primary stress hormone, isn’t being pushed too hard by infections or tenuous relationships or demanding jobs, it helps with controlling inflammation (and food reactions) in the body.  It’s a steroid.  It’s a good guy in the fight for balance.  

But just like the bears – too much (when we’re overstressed) and too little (when we’re burnt out and experiencing adrenal fatigue) don’t support that happy balanced place.  We want the “just right” because that’s where our body can excel in finding and maintaining balance, which is what it was created to do!

I hope you noticed something there – burnout is frequently too little cortisol.  My impression is the big push about burnout these days is that it can all be solved with more mindset, self-care and meditation to calm our stress response.  I don't want to minimize the importance of those actions…but true burnout is twice as much biochemical and hormonal as it is mindset. 

And that is because where most of us have understood adrenal fatigue (or burnout) to be adrenal glands that have lost their ability to respond to the stressors in our life…there is actually a bigger player in the game – the brain.  (Rarely is anything in the amazing human body as simple and straightforward as we first believe.)  

Cortisol is toxic to the brain.  When we have prolonged periods of high stress and high cortisol, our brain does what it does so well – it makes independent decisions to protect you (and itself).  The brain downregulates the pituitary and hypothalamus so your adrenal glands don’t get the message to make more cortisol.  It’s not even that the mail doesn’t get through…that check they promised to put in the mail is still sitting on a desk somewhere!  So the adrenals take a break, cortisol is low and unresponsive to our stressors…and we’re tired, we have foggy brain, we don’t sleep well and we crave a variety of foods, we crash in the afternoon, mood is horrible, inflammation increases…and we will end up with gut issues and food sensitivities. 

Just a quick reminder…there is a lot more to the whole process than just this…but for many of us, especially if we’ve had a traumatic background, this is going to be a BIG key to figuring out the food sensitivity puzzle. 

Next week I’ll talk about my favorite ways to support the body in burnout…which will also make a difference with food sensitivities!  (And it’s more than just self-care techniques…even though I love to talk about that stuff!)

 If you’re still at the point in your food sensitivity journey where you’re wondering what foods are causing issues, download my free resource, Food Sensitivity Testing: Which test is right for you? here.


food sensitivities, resilience, self-care, stress

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