If you’ve ever dealt with food sensitivities, you know how utterly maddening they can be. Trying to track down what exactly is making you feel lousy can suck up a significant portion of your brain space. As your social life dies off, your time spent scouring the internet for solutions goes up. After a while you feel like your entire life has been taken over by the need to figure out what is wrong.
I get it. Food sensitivities sucked the joy out of my life for years. I was constantly feeling bad. Constantly trying to figure out what was wrong. Constantly not doing things I wanted to do because my digestive system wouldn’t allow me to.
It all started in my mid-20s when I was finishing grad school and working part-time. It had been a stressful period but I was ready to move on to a new phase of life. Suddenly, my digestive system started FREAKING OUT at me. Swelling, gas, pain, exhaustion, skin breakouts, and more. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Of course, I started by visiting my primary care physician. I like him pretty well, but do you know what his best advice was for me? Take Tums and let it work itself out. Yup. That was it. I tried it for about 2 weeks and then decided to move on to find a better solution.
After more than 15 years of learning about health issues like this, I now understand how little the medical profession really knows about women’s bodies. There are many well-documented studies showing that women who go to doctors with unusual or unclear symptoms are often generally diagnosed or simply not believed (it is even worse for women of color). On top of that, many health care professionals have no idea how the mind/body works together to create physical symptoms that can’t be solved with medications or surgeries. To complicate things, nutrition, which we do actually know a great deal about, is really just a tiny part of the puzzle. There is simply no one-size-fits all diet or meal plan. There is no food that works consistently for everyone. It is not as simple as “eat right.”
But I didn’t know any of that in my 20s. I just knew that I felt horrible. That started a long journey toward learning about how my body reacted to food and why. I did elimination diets and took food sensitivity tests. I tried diets including FODMAP, Paleo, vegetarian, gluten free, egg free, sugar free, low carb, and GAPS. I did tons of cleanses. I tracked everything I ate and eliminated anything that gave me trouble. I consulted nutritionists and holistic practitioners. I learned to prepare traditional foods and researched all the best sources for the food I ate.
The cycle was always the same, though. I’d start on something new and be so confident that it was the one thing that would fix my problem. I’d eliminate something from my diet and feel Ok for a bit. Or I’d do a cleanse and see some improvement for a few weeks. But the symptoms always came back. Over the course of ten years I cut more and more out of my diet, just trying to find things I wouldn’t react to. Eventually I had eliminated so much that I was probably down to 30-40 things I could safely eat and still feel ok most of the time.
The most limiting thing was that I had to know where every single thing I ate came from. If I went to visit friends, I had to take food with me. I never went to restaurants. I only traveled if I could take food along or buy what I needed there (which took a LOT of research ahead of time). Holidays were the worst. Sitting around watching everyone eat yummy things I remembered loving but thinking I could never eat again. I had to actively distance myself from the things people usually associate food with: comfort, family, seasons, and memories.
At some point I realized that I was literally afraid to eat food. I had no control over how anything I put into my body would make me feel. I put so much work into eating right and could still crash at any time for no reason I could identify. It felt like just trying to put enough food in my body to function was a struggle. Most of my energy was going toward figuring out what was wrong.
Something had to change. Finally, I decided to go to a local natural healing center. I had known about them for years but avoided going because they used muscle testing (also called applied kinesiology) and I thought it was totally wacky. This is how Wikipedia defines it, “Applied kinesiology (AK) is a pseudoscience -based technique in alternative medicine claimed to be able to diagnose illness or choose treatment by testing muscles for strength and weakness.” That pretty much sums up what I thought of it at the time. But this place had helped a number of people I personally knew and I was desperate, so I decided to give it a try.
I am so glad I did. I discovered that not only does muscle testing work, but it was one part of a system called Autonomic Response Testing (ART), which is not a pseudoscience at all. ART was developed in Germany and has seen significant expansion all around the world because of how effective it is. Of course, mainstream medical science hasn’t allowed it to enter its hallowed halls of teaching, so most medical professionals are highly suspicious of it. However, I can tell you that it helped me significantly.
Using ART we identified significant, multiple parasite infections (yes, I had done parasite cleanses on my own, but I guess they weren’t that effective), Lyme disease, bacterial problems, heavy metal issues, and more. It was a long road to dig down through all of that (and required taking LOTS of supplements) but I started to see slow progress.
It was probably 18 months into my journey with ART that I started adding food back into my diet. The amazing thing with muscle testing is that they could test individual foods and find out what worked for me and what didn’t, which saved me a ton of time and stress. But even then, I’d sometimes react to foods that tested as “safe,” so there was obviously something else going on. My progress never stopped, but it slowed and I was afraid I’d be stuck with taking supplements every day for the rest of my life. So I kept seeing that naturopath but also started searching for something else that would explain more of what I was experiencing.
At that point I was willing to try things I had never considered before. I started dabbling in a little bit of energy work by seeing a therapist who practiced Neuro Emotional Technique (NET). I began to realize how intertwined emotional and physical health are. Somewhere along the way I also came across Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and started working with that on my own. I discovered Amy B. Sher’s book How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can. It was here I finally learned to muscle test myself and how to use EFT specifically for healing on physical, mental, and emotional levels. Let’s just say that my eyes were really opened to the possibilities of energy therapies to help my body heal. I got really creative with combining different techniques and concepts to get to the bottom of my food sensitivities.
I learned so much during this time, but one of the biggest breakthroughs for me was realizing that my body wasn’t reacting to the food I was eating as much as it was reacting to the associations it had made with those foods. So if I ate ice cream I might be reacting to a dozen associations my body had made between that specific food and past emotions, events, or situations. Which explained a whole lot about why my sensitivities were so hard to decipher. It was less about the actual food (did that have dairy in it? Corn? Soy Lecithin?) and more about what had happened in the past when I ate a particular version of that food. (Would my body react differently to rocky road ice cream over peanut butter? I wish I had tested that.)
So how did I start clearing those associations? First I started with EFT and some of the other techniques I knew. I had to approach foods one at a time, working to identify and heal the core issues associated with it. It was slow progress and hard work. Along the way I dredged up a LOT of old emotional baggage that needed to be healed. And suffered a lot of setbacks. And still went to see my naturopath regularly.
It was clear to me that my physical, mental, and emotional health were all intimately intertwined. I had to work on it all to heal my food sensitivities.
During this phase it felt like there was STILL something missing, so I started seeing a woman who does Integrated Energy Therapy (IET). I saw her about once a month for deep cellular-level energy clearing. Eventually she became my teacher and I learned how to do IET myself. She also encouraged me to try Reiki. It was something I had been interested in for years but felt it was a little too weird for me. But once again, I decided to get over the weird factor and jump in. Thank goodness I did because that’s when my healing really started to pick up!
Reiki was the last big piece to fall into place for me. It not only helped me identify what was blocking my healing but it gave me the support my body needed to actually heal. Combining that with all the other things I had learned gave me a huge assortment of tools to work with. Soon after that I stopped going to my naturopath because I found I could do most of the work on my own. I practiced and experimented until my body finally started putting itself back together. I was clearing the energy behind my food sensitivities as fast as I could and adding items back into my diet on a regular basis. When I found things that were a problem, I worked to figure out what needed to heal so I could eat that thing again.
Best of all, I started to feel free and relaxed around food again.
It has been over two years since my first Reiki class, and at least a year since I feel that I’ve been healed of my food sensitivities. My digestive system is still a little finicky. If I eat too much wheat or dairy in a week I don’t feel great. My body doesn’t love coconut oil (I can’t figure out why). I avoid processed or fried foods just because I don't really want to open that door again. Overall, I feel pretty good about what I eat. I can go out to a restaurant now and then without worrying. I can visit friends and eat what they give me. I can travel and not take all my food with me. I can indulge in cheap, greasy pizza occasionally. As long as I don’t overdo it, I can eat normal holiday food again. I’m pulling out old recipes (actual recipes!) that I haven’t made in 15 years. I’m figuring out what I like and don’t like again (apparently I hate bananas now). It has been two great years of rediscovering food and learning not to be afraid of what I eat. I’m really grateful for where I am and, although I have not enjoyed the journey, I appreciate what it has taught me.
So maybe you can see why I’m a believer in energy work. Even if it seems weird, it really can make a difference. It gives you a view of your integrated physical, mental, and emotional bodies so you can see where things are going wrong and correct the root problems. I also know now that no matter what your doctor tells you, many things can be healed that medical science doesn’t understand. It makes me sad to see so many people stuck in illnesses they think they have to deal with for the rest of their lives. If they’d be willing to step outside the box, maybe they could find solutions they never dreamed were possible.
And maybe that’s the point. Maybe what really needs to be healed is our perception of what is possible. Our ideas about what our bodies are able to heal. Our understanding of how the world really works. Maybe when we are willing to take a look out of this highly Westernized, rationalistic, male-dominated culture we will see more ways of healing than we even knew existed.
That has certainly been my journey. I’ve learned that all the ways of healing, from the standard to the totally weird, have something to offer. If what you are doing isn’t working, then it’s time to try something new. Most importantly, if the professional you are working with doesn’t believe your symptoms, or suggests it is all in your head, then walk away and find someone else. So many people (particularly women) deal with symptoms for years because no one really believes their story. Find someone who believes you and, if possible, has experience with what you are dealing with. Don’t assume that you have to live like this forever. There is a path forward toward health and freedom. I know from personal experience that food sensitivities can be healed. I feel free from the overwhelming limitations those sensitivities put on my life. I don’t mind that I had to experience some weird stuff along the way. It was totally worth it.
If you are experiencing food sensitivities and want to talk about it, send me an email at email@example.com. If nothing else, I can validate what you’ve been experiencing and let you know you aren’t alone.