Have you ever considered what role your brain plays in your food sensitivities? It seems like a straight-forward question until we start to consider the capabilities of that thing in your head.
Your brain has dozens of jobs. I believe we're still always learning what goes on in these bodies we have - and the brain is definitely not an exception. We're not diving deep on neurobiology and all today, but let's explore a bit of how your brain impacts your food sensitivity journey.
The ultimate goal of your brain is to keep you safe and alive. To do that it responds to thousands of stimuli every hour, every day. Your brain makes decisions about what is safe and what is not without you even having a conscious thought. Seems crazy, right??
Quick-ish story. I lived in Southern Florida for about five years and worked in public health. One of my responsibilities was to work in a shelter for those with significant medical needs requiring electrical power during tropical storms and hurricanes. We had dedicated generator power so we could keep electrical things alive.
The shelter was in a huge metal building. When the wind blew and the rain flew, the building made a lot of noise. My first year in Florida the state had four major hurricanes make landfall within 6 weeks. Two of those took an almost identical path through Palm Beach County where I worked. I was in the shelter for those storms…and it was a bit stressful.
Fast-forward to later that year and I was at a Norah Jones concert at the West Palm Beach amphitheater. Cool evening, lovely music, great seats. But I started having palpitations - my heart was beating funny. I got sick to my stomach and felt really panicky. Not sure what was going on, I got up to leave. Then I noticed once I got out from under the metal roof at the amphitheater, my symptoms went away.
It was a breezy night and the metal roof of the amphitheater was making creaking sounds similar to those in the shelter. I didn't even notice until I got out under the starry sky.
My brain was trying to keep me safe. Those sounds triggered a stress response and I felt miserable. As soon as the sound of danger, by my brain's assessment, was gone everything calmed down.
OK…so maybe not that quick of a story but I think it's a really good one to illustrate what kinds of symptoms your brain can create in an effort to tell you something is wrong with where you're sitting or the people you're around or the food you eat. And even if your brain is "making them up", these are very real symptoms.
Any kind of chronic stressor, which includes illnesses and trauma and food sensitivities, is going to increase your brain's perception of danger.
The good news is we are not at the mercy of our hypervigilant brains. In fact, over time, we can calm down those responses. The biggest thing is simply understanding how your brain works and how it can cause symptoms that are very real but make no sense at all to a healthcare provider.
Your brain doesn't care what the textbooks say about anatomy and physiology. It just wants to keep you safe. Know you're not crazy. Yes, some of your symptoms may be from your brain but that's not the same as a healthcare provider telling you "it's all in your head".
Sixty-second Self-care Tip…
One way to start retraining your brain is to start supporting your Vagus nerve. She's one of the main players in your body who tells your brain everything is OK and you're safe.
Some quick and simple ways to support Vagus nerve are to sing, hum, and laugh. Deep breathing exercises where your exhale is longer than your inhale are also important. Just taking that deep belly breath is enough to activate the Vagus nerve.
And if you're really adventurous, you might consider tepid or cold showers or a cold cloth on the face and neck. Frankly, not one of my favorite approaches!
Start here and we'll be talking more about stress management and the Vagus nerve in the near future!
Looking for some easy (and mostly free) ways to manage histamine intolerance and these crazy symptoms? Request my FREE resource, 7 Steps to Minimize Histamine Intolerance, and get started today!