My old writing has shown me how I used to feel about food. It’s an alien landscape now. Reading those words my heart goes out to my poor sick self who was so conflicted about eating. Now I can see that my picky eating was probably a symptom of my food intolerance. I was more than picky, I had a great reluctance to eat. I called it food fear. I had a visceral feeling that food was going to hurt me. This led to some odd eating behaviors. I didn’t like to eat new foods and I tended to avoid any that were strong in color, texture or taste. My friends laughed at what they called my “white diet’ and others expressed concern about the lack of food variety and wondered if I had a eating disorder.
Recently I have been reading about how the digestive system works. It turns out that the gut is lined with the same nerve cells as in your brain. The system is set up so that the guts can communicate directly with our brain and tell us when to sleep, what and how much to eat, and that we need to poop. Every day science is finding more links between the chemical and electrical landscape of our bowels and our brains. Unfortunately this communication system is old and not linked with the conscious brain at all.
It is not too farfetched to believe that if our guts report to our brain that a food is satisfying and we should eat more of it, that it can also report to the brain that a food is dangerous. In my case, my conscious brain was a hindrance. It, as well as my friends, family and culture were all telling me that my food fear was silly, leading me to ignore the fear and try to eat anyway. Regrettably the foods I thought of as ‘safe’ (saltines, and bread) were in fact the foods that were causing my body to become sick. It was a classic catch 22 situation. The feelings that were aimed at making me protect myself were making me hurt myself.
I’ve read some crazy statistics about the amount of people that suffer from eating disorders. I have to wonder how many of these people who are told that they are crazy are actually just sick? Is it possible that the dysfunctional relationship they have with food is caused not by their brain but the foods that they chose to eat?