Safety, threat and reactivity

I have had two lovely client consultations last week, where people who came to see me with very restricted low-histamine diets have been successfully experimenting with putting foods back in. The biggest joy for me is seeing their anxiety around food reducing as their symptoms are no longer so easily triggered by what they eat.

Stress compounds the problem

Often food is not the primary problem – though foods can definitely trigger symptoms, and there can be benefits gained from temporarily modifying your diet. However, overly focusing on what you are eating comes with its own issues – you may start to feel some foods are ‘unsafe’, and this can often spiral as you may not be too sure which foods you can eat without consequence. Stress around meal times goes up, you are regularly checking in to see how your body has reacted, and this increases a general state of hypervigilance – and a jumpy nervous system can lead to a jumpy immune system…

It is completely understandable that food can start to make you scared, when you feel it is causing trouble – and I am not intimating that if you were able to stop worrying all your issues would go away. In fact, as inflammation itself leads to poorer mood and anxiety much of your worry could actually be originating in your body – and until you can reduce down the inflammation you may continue to struggle in this way.

Even so, we do know that stress can activate histamine-producing mast cells, that it can alter immune system regulation and balance, that it can increase the risk of swinging blood sugars which lead to inflammation… all of which contribute to the problem. We also know that when your threat system is on overdrive – it can start to react to normally innocuous things. So it really is a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped somewhere.

It can help to understand that histamine intolerance is generally a result of excess histamine coming into the system (from inflammation/immune cell activity, or bacterial production), and an inability of the breakdown pathways for histamine to keep up. By talking through your whole health history with you, I take a broader look at what is going on – and we can work out ways to support these issues in order to help reduce histamine load – and slowly increase your ability to tolerate histamine-containing foods.

The power of feeling safe

For some people though, their bodies have become reactive to so many things – meaning that using diet and supplements to correct deficiencies, reduce inflammation, or support immune balance and their body’s ability to keep underlying infections in check can be hard. The benefit of including regular practices that support a general feeling of safety cannot be underestimated here, as calming down your nervous system can be a great place to start. Grounding practices, breathwork, meditation, EFT, yoga nidra, cultivating feelings of gratitude, singing, gargling, laughing, and spending time with people you love, are all useful things to try – though for some even these practices can lead to symptoms so need to be started gradually.

There are also two online programmes which I often recommend to clients that have been developed to support you to turn down the volume of the ‘threat detector’ in the brain (the amygdala), using a top-down approach (i.e. utilising the higher brain to communicate safety to the limbic or emotional brain). These are The Gupta Programme and Annie Hopper’s Dynamic Neural Retraining.

I am also a big fan of somatic work – where you use a bottom-up approach to do a similar thing: altering the signals that your body is sending to your limbic brain through movement or touch. I am currently training to provide tension and trauma release exercises to support my clients in this way, and hope to be able to offer these to you early in the New Year.

I’m here to help

Often times my clients can actually tolerate more foods than they think, even at the start, but they have been too worried about triggering symptoms to give it a go. They have finally decided to get help, as they know that following such a restricted diet might be impacting their nutrient intake – and is certainly reducing their joy in life as they are struggling to eat out or with friends and are bored with sticking to the same few foods.

If you feel that you would like some support to help you reduce your reactivity to foods, to broaden out your diet, and bring more joy back to meal times then I am here to help. Do contact me to arrange a free discovery call.

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