READER TRIGGER WARNING: this blog discusses how GI disorders can lead to disordered eating patterns. If this is a personal trigger for you, please skip this one. We have tried to show empathy and understanding and provide reassurance that you are not alone in your journey, but this may not be something you feel comfortable reading.
Gut issues and disordered eating patterns
Gut issues can have a huge effect on our eating patterns. It can affect the perceptions we form about food. Gut issues are often linked to emotional distress and pain from food. And this isn’t much talked about. Many people don’t think that gut-based problems pose as big an issue.
Humans are hardwired to avoid pain. We can be more likely moved away from a painful experience than towards pleasure. The primitive brain values our safety over all else – this is another fundamental survival mechanism that has served us well and allowed humans to survive through times when being eaten by lions wasn’t an issue! But now, in today’s modern world, with less risks around death-by-lion, we still respond to threat displays even when there isn’t any real danger present.
If food starts to cause you emotional distress and physical pain over a long period, there is a very high chance you will start changing your behaviors, helpful or not.
Once upon a time, it was far more likely that foods causing you pain were in response to the food being poisonous and not safe. Your brain had to remember that food and actively make sure you avoided it at all costs, to keep you safe in the future.
Nowadays, it is a lot more common for the food you are eating to be triggering a reaction in the gut due to an underlying issue like leaky gut, dysbiosis, or SIBO (if all other medical conditions have been ruled out). That is a more likely scenario in developed countries.
Food intolerances and radical food exclusion
Gut health is an important thing to consider when it comes time for your body’s biochemistry. Amassing a group of food intolerance can often be addressed by fixing the root cause rather than just adding more exclusions on top, which is a better long-term strategy than the growing list.
A growing list of food intolerance can come from a variety of things, and here are some examples:
- Medical condition
- Poor gut lining (leaky gut)
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) accounting for 70-90% of IBS
- Small intestinal fungal overgrowth (SIFO) or
- certain medications
And this list is just a start on some of the most common causes if other medical issues have been ruled out.
A good question to ask yourself: “Have I always not been able to eat this food, or did something change at some point?”
The recent advances in our understanding of gut health have been unprecedented. However, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions for improving your GI tract – which means that each person needs a tailored approach for optimal benefit! Over 90% of all research on the gut and microbiome was published in the last decade. We still have a lot to learn about this.
Diet culture and misinformation exacerbate the problem by pushing varying diets and foods, marketing them as “healthy.” To say anyone’s food is suitable for every person (or every gut) is scientifically improbable.
Undeniably some foods are not beneficial for your gut, and research supports this. Most edible items damaging to the gut can fall into one category: fake, highly processed foods. They often bombard us by marketing themselves as “healthy,” which is a problem.
Most healthy people with healthy guts should be able to eat mostly healthy foods unless they have a medical or personal preference for exclusion.
“Diets alone can solve your gut problems.” is often false
Most diets are symptom management tools, not treatments.
Although diet can impact the composition of our gut microbiome, there is a lot of misinformation out there.
For example, the SIBO diet has been touted as a cure for SIBO, yet there is no evidence to support this, and all a SIBO diet can do (which still may be beneficial) is decrease symptoms.
Food sensitivity test
Don’t even get me started on the sheer volume of online sensitivity tests I took, all providing varying results on my journey to fix my gut.
Later I learned how inaccurate most of these can be, and would urge anyone using them to speak to a doctor and dietitian before making any radical diet changes.
Even though different tests from different companies would all spit out different results, I would cling to a common theme I saw across them and take it as gospel. I was so desperate for answers and solutions I was willing to buy into anything that might help (even if it caused mental and physical harm). That only further perpetuated my damaged relationship with food.
It’s not uncommon to experience pain after eating certain foods. For some people, this may be a temporary feeling of indigestion, while for others, it may be a more chronic condition such as irritable bowel syndrome. If you find that you are regularly experiencing pain after eating, it’s essential to take some steps to figure out what is causing the problem. Only once you know what is causing the pain will you be able to start repairing the damage and avoiding foods that trigger the pain. This can be a complicated process, but it is worth taking the time to figure out what is causing your pain to start living a healthier life.
1. Find out the reason behind your GI distress
, and don’t just try to play guessing games with your diet to avoid flaring symptoms.
After step one, I took some other steps after recovering from SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and candida that helped me (and might help you too).
2. Here are some tips that might help (but always speak to a professional):
• Slowly introduced fear foods back into my diet one at a time. Facing my anxiety one baby step at a time. I didn’t overdo it. I just aimed to introduce one new food a week and let my brain slowly learn these foods won’t hurt me and I can eat a varied diet.
• Explaining to friends and family why certain foods and eating out could cause me anxiety. I faced anxiety when not knowing what was in my food because I was anxious about it. I had supportive people around me that were helpful and understanding.
• If you have trouble explaining what you went through and why you have these anxieties to friends or loved ones- it might be helpful to send them this article.
It can be challenging for them to understand if they have not been there themselves, so be kind to yourself. Whatever their reaction maybe, not everyone will understand.
• Seek professional help from a psychologist if you can
• Talk to a doctor
• Be patient with yourself and know the mental barrier your brain put up was only an act of your brain doing its best to protect you