Are your digestive issues causing anxiety and fear around food? Do you feel frustrated and confused about what you can or cannot eat? Have you started to say no to dinner invites because you’re worried you might have a flare up?
I hear you. And you’re definitely not alone. This is probably one of the most common frustrations I hear about.
It’s also a topic very close to my heart as I used to have an eating disorder for years, which caused my digestive issues in the first place. And that in return, only caused more anxiety and stress. Yes, it turned into a bad cycle. No doubt.
So what causes that fear of food? In most cases it’s the fear of symptoms being triggered such as bloating, constipation, pain and diarrhea. Especially when symptoms and flare ups can be very intense, and unpredictable. I mean, no one wants to sit down with their loved ones for a nice meal and suddenly have to spend an hour in a public bathroom with uncontrolled bowel movements. And most importantly, no one should have to.
And again, this tends to create a bad cycle. Let me explain. So symptoms start creating fear around food, which tends to lead to restrictive eating and cutting out foods one might think causes issues. But restrictive eating is one of the most harmful things to do to your gut.
Why? First of all, your gut needs fiber to stay strong and healthy. It’s essentially the food for your healthy gut bacteria. And where do we find fiber? In plant-based foods (legumes, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, berries). And ONLY in plant-based foods. So when you start to eliminate foods, a lot of them will be plant-based. As a result one starts to deprive themselves of the fiber that the healthy gut bacteria needs, which will simply cause even more damage to the gut.
With that said, restrictive eating (long-term) will only make symptoms worse and will cause even more fear and anxiety. To the point where ”safe” foods might have come down to just crackers and carrots. I mean, where’s the joy in that?
Since the fear of having symptoms triggered tends to cause the anxiety around food in the first place, it’s key to implement strategies that help you reduce symptoms.
So, here are 3 simple strategies you can start implementing today:
- Meditate / practice deep breathing before your meals for 5 – 10 min. This will help you get into a more relaxed state of mind, and will also help your gut relax. You can also say a little mantra out loud such as “food is healing and gives me energy” or whatever mantra is powerful to you. That way you’ll start to build up that trust again with food
- Take your time to eat. Eating quickly and in a stressful environment will not support your trust building with food, and will most likely just trigger even more symptoms. Taking your time to eat allows you to slow down your eating and tune into hunger cues, which will help rebuild that trust with food.
- Cook your own food. This way you’ll know exactly what’s in the food (no hidden chemicals or preservatives) and cooking your own food will also help you enjoy the food more and slow down while eating. Again, building up that trust with food.
And give yourself time. If you’re having fear around food it’s not gonna go away overnight. Give yourself time and space for it. And better yet, let someone help you and keep you accountable. Working with someone who’s been through the same or similar journey, or has helped others overcome their food anxiety will only support and speed up your healing process.
There’s so much healing power in healthy food. It gives you energy, makes you feel like the most free & vibrant version of yourself, plus it’s one of the best investments you can do for your overall health and wellbeing.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Are you struggling with fear and anxiety around food? Share with me in the comments below.
You might also like The Gut Brain Connection.
About the Author
Anna is a certified Holistic Health & Nutrition Coach who helps people heal their gut to be free of digestive issues, pain and fatigue. And instead have more energy, feel free, light and vibrant.