Following on from ‘Messages from the Body to the Mind about Food’, here are more revealing ‘body-knows’ stories and how the funny but wise messages continue …
Eating Chilli – Bucket loads!
In 2010, whilst living in a country rental property, I became very ill from a couple of rat-borne diseases, which resulted in lots of ambulance trips, powerful antibiotics, heart and kidney damage, and time admiring the walls of many Emergency Departments. The doctor gave me three possible actions for dealing with extreme debilitating nausea from the antibiotics:
1) Do nothing and suffer
2) Take anti-nausea drugs and put up with more side effects, or
3) Eat all day
Great choices! My doctor and I came to the same decision together that the least harm would come from eating all day. It worked to stop the nausea, but combined with the lack of exercise due to illness, I put on about 9 kg of fat. As my health improved though, this extra weight did not want to shift.
Then in April 2014, whilst at a Universal Medicine Retreat, suddenly my body said: “Give me chilli – LOTS of chilli, please!” I’d always loved chilli but only in tiny amounts as I’m very sensitive to small amounts of things. Suddenly I was eating chilli – ‘bucket loads’ in fact – without ill effects and my body was utterly joyful about it. My eating (lots of) chilli went on for a few weeks, then the off-switch message from my body engaged, and although afterwards I felt to regularly consume more chilli than I had before, it just wasn’t in ‘bucket loads’!
Halving My Meal Portion Sizes …
The other message from my body when I got home from the Universal Medicine retreat was, “Eat half what you normally eat”. I don’t eat much normally and the less time I spend in the kitchen the happier I am, so I can get on with ‘more important’ things. Aside from that I just generally don’t eat a lot or in large portions. So halving what I already eat? Outrageous!
I ignored this message from my body and went ahead and ate my normal-sized small meal of safe, simple, nutrient-rich foods.
Oh the discomfort!! – awake almost all night with a painful, distended stomach! So I decided I would listen to my body and when I halved my meal portion sizes I felt much more comfortable. Not only that, my body brought my weight back to what it knew was healthy for it, without my dieting or imposing some target on it. For me, the meal portion size message is particularly to be obeyed in the evening. If I go to bed having eaten even a bit too much, the results are disastrous!
My Vinegar Pain Message …
Pain has often been the signal for me to drop various other foods too. It is an interesting message from the body and personally, I don’t like switching it off with painkillers if at all possible.
To me, that’s like turning off my smoke alarm and ignoring the fire in the roof.
Pain for me is there in the first instance to tell me that something is wrong and that I need to find out what’s going on and then take action.
I manage for as long as I can without painkillers whilst finding out what the pain is about and then, if it’s still intense and or ongoing, I do relieve it with medication.
Recently I got another message from my body which involved pain and vinegar … I used to love vinegar, I mean really LOVE it – especially salt and vinegar chips, my grandma’s amazing pickled onions, my Russian father-in-law’s awesome dill pickles, tangy mayo, salad dressings with balsamic, etc. Then one day I noticed that if I ate vinegar I was in pain in my stomach shortly after. Every time. And it got worse. Being a ‘science head’, I checked that the problem was actually the vinegar, and yes it was.
I liked to have balsamic vinegar in my salad dressings and I knew that all the other ingredients in the salad were ‘safe’ foods for me – just plain veggies. Only the vinegar was in question, as it seemed to be the common factor when I experienced pain upon eating. Made without vinegar – no pain; made with vinegar – pain; made without vinegar – no pain. I did a few trials both ways with otherwise the same ingredients to be sure. My body knew! No more vinegar for me!
The Sugar Meter …
The next ‘body knows’ story is a classic too. Years and years ago, I noticed that if I’d eaten something with a huge amount of sugar in it, meaning sucrose from sugar cane, a few days later I would get a tiny ulcer on my tongue. Whoopy doo … well no, not trivial – the pain from that tiny ulcer was unbelievable and went on for 3 days. So in the past when contemplating some yummy sugar-laden enticement, like golden syrup dumplings, or a block of chocolate, etc., I would be faced with a choice: a few minutes of sensual pleasure followed by 3 days of oral agony, or say no to the treat. I usually listened to the message from the body and said no.
But as the years have gone by the ‘sugar meter’ on my tongue has become more and more sensitive. At first it was only extreme amounts of sucrose that shot the dial and the pain up into the ‘red’. Then smaller amounts did it and the ulcer formed a bit quicker. From taking a few days, it was now forming within a day of a big sugar hit. It really stopped me eating those sugary delights.
This process went on, until the ulcer would form within minutes of eating even a small amount of sucrose.
As a biologist I marvelled at how quickly a piece of intact, healthy tongue tissue could rear up into an enduring, red, painful welt in response to a little bit of one chemical.
But the body’s reaction to sugar didn’t stop there. As my sensitivity has increased, I have also found that there are certain unprocessed raw foods in my diet that my body reacts to and that I can no longer eat. Sometimes I get a slight ulcer from eating things that apparently have no sugar in them. Evidently my sugar meter is also a lie detector, revealing sugar in foods when it is not even listed on the packaging!
The Body Truly Knows …
The more I listen to my body the more I am developing the ability to be open to what it has to say so that I can pick up all the messages, no matter what odd form they may take. I now know to not ignore or override the messages from the body, however they come. First I listen, then I hear, then I choose to do what I’m being shown! It’s true – the body knows!
By Dianne Trussell, BSc Honours; 16 years in Biological & Medical Research & Teaching