Ask Alina is a weekly video series on the Brain Gardening instagram discussing Alina’s experience and insights after recovering from chronic illness through a brain retraining practice. Questions are gathered on Tuesdays from that account’s IG Stories. Episodes are filmed on Wednesdays and posted as soon as possible. To increase availability and accessibility of these materials, they are being archived on the Brain Gardening™ YouTube channel, which includes the option for closed captioning. The videos are provided for information purposes only and should not be used to replace or supplement the advice of a physician or other health care provider. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions prior to using any information or resources contained on or through this video. Brain Gardening™ is not affiliated with any other neural retraining programs.
A transcript of the questions and responses contained in this episode is available below.
A food sensitivity test revealed that I have lots of food sensitivities so my functional doc has me avoid them. How does this connect with brain retraining? How can I reintroduce them if I fear they will cause inflammation?
There is a lot of conflicting information about the accuracy of such tests. I took a lot of them and I think every time I had different results and sometimes it flags foods that were staples in my diet and that I didn’t experience any known reactions to. There are different types of tests but I’ve done the kinds of where they test by skin pricks as well as through blood work. The assumption with food sensitivity tests is that the food is the direct culprit and nothing else. But the tests are identifying the presence of antibodies and confirming the presence of inflammation in the body. What the tests don’t capture is that a dysregulated nervous system or overload from stress hormones can also be responsible for that inflammation where the body is insufficiently able to break that particular food. It is possible to resolve the food sensitivity by using the brain as the messenger to switch into the parasympathetic nervous system, which supports digestive processes. If you have sensitivities to many kinds of foods, or other things like scents, environmental components, or products, it may be a good indication that the food is not the culprit but the system is dysregulated.
In terms of brain retraining, it’s important to first reach a place of neutrality emotionally/mentally with the foods, that way you can have more neutral ground to attempt any reintroduction of the foods. I had to reframe my thoughts and associations with foods and remove the fear part by educating myself in the opposite. There are so many opinions and dietary claims with foods that it can be confusing to navigate. There is rarely unanimous consensus so I tried to abandon ideas of good vs bad foods. If I believed a food was bad or harmful, I’d seek out research about the benefits to help balance that view. I would also look into past joyful memories where the food might have been part of my diet and replay those so it felt more possible to me. If such an example didn’t exist, I would focus on cuisines the food was part of and celebrate the country and culture so I could get a broader sense of joy from there to round out my view of the food.
As for reintroduction, I feel like it works best when it happens incrementally. So it can start with visualizing the food, smelling the food, taking a bite out of the food, eating a meal with a tiny bit of the food mixed in, or eating the food as a larger component to the meal. It’s about what is personally within a level of comfort to do, but slightly on the edge of that comfort zone so you can grow and expand from there over time and practice.
Can gut infections resolve just by doing brain retraining?
I believe they can depending on the source of the infection and whether the environment of the body and the nervous system branches are functioning optimally. If they aren’t, chronic infections can take place where the body doesn’t really heal and the infections are recurring. Brain retraining can help that aspect so the body can then move into a place that supports healing without recurrence.
Did you ever struggle with light sensitivity and off and on blurry vision?
SO much. I was sensitive to everything and the issues I had with my eyes were one of the harder things for me to accept because my vision was an important aspect of how I defined myself as an artist. I had many eye symptoms. I’ll post an infographic tomorrow about the nervous system branches to further explain how the brain can be used to support healing for things all over the body like in our digestive system and also our senses like sight, taste, smell, and hearing. Even our tactile ability and coordination.
Did you have mast cell activation and histamine issues? I can only eat one thing since 1 year.
MCAS was not one of my diagnoses but I had severe allergic reactions that did include anaphalaxis while I had a menu of other conditions going on at the same time that affected my heartrate, blood pressure, balance, and temperature regulation so who knows. I did have histamine intolerance and I tried to address it by eliminating foods but doing that didn’t really improve anything for me. I had a very limited diet in doing all of that elimination. When I started to add back foods, I started with the foods I didn’t have any known reactions to but had been suggested by certain diet protocols. I also added back in ones that had been out of my diet for the shortest time. Some of the foods I eat now I went 20 years without eating and some foods I had never tried before because food issues were something I developed in childhood.
I seemed to feel better when I stopped cutting out foods. Is it okay to have gluten and dairy with CFS?
I think learning to trust your body is important. If you feel better when you’re not cutting out foods, I think that’s a good indication of what direction to go. I can speak for my experience and confirm that both gluten and dairy were out of my diet as a means of symptom management but I really didn’t feel completely better from that step. It sort of alleviated some of the pressure that was on my body to process certain things because it wasn’t in a place where it was able to take on any more stress, physically or mentally. In managing that stress through brain retraining, and rebalancing the nervous systems, my symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome resolved and it was not isolated to the food. Even in adding the food back in, my body was capable of processing it and using it as fuel. I let go of certain protocols or rules, knowing I was still healing my body and supporting my recovery through a brain retraining practice.
How can we train or help ourselves make changes when we don’t technically have any food allergies but health social media accounts have made us fearful of everything!
This question really speaks to me because a large part of my restriction was due to being told certain foods were bad for me or unsafe and not because I had a reaction that qualified that assessment. I did have foods that I was allergic or intolerant to but I had a whole lot that I eliminated from my diet out of fear of getting worse or doing damage. I followed health programs and diets that declared foods as bad or good / unsafe or safe and that creating a relationship with food based on black and white thinking. Food’s relationship to wellness is a complicated relationship. Our thoughts or behaviors around food can be more harmful to wellness than the food itself. It’s great that you have the awareness that you’re experiencing fear and able to label it as that. It’s also helpful to know a source that is helping to fuel that fear or the rhetoric that certain foods should be feared. For me, I ended up unfollowing those accounts because they represented an opinion or theory, not 100% fact. Some of those theories are based on outdated ideas or have science that contradicts it coming forward. A major shift is removing that emotional layer or fear around food came when I started to instead follow dieticians and nutritionists that aligned with the concept of intuitive eating. I would encourage you to look into that to reach more neutrality with foods or specific ingredients. If it’s helpful, I can also make suggestions about accounts that might be helpful to follow in another post.
How do I reframe & undo my fears about sugar, processed foods, etc from food protocols?
This relates to the previous question I answered, so I would encourage again some research into intuitive eating. This is a book I found helpful during my journey. There is a newer edition that was released I believe in June of 2020. I think one important thing I learned with reintroduction those foods was the concept of moderation and not to base my decision to eat something or not from a place of emotion but from a place of more neutral or logical. So, If I made the choice to eat something processed, I knew that one time wasn’t going to be harmful and my body was more than capable of digesting it because I had built up its strength and resilience through rebalancing my nervous system from brain retraining. I focused more on meeting my body’s nutritional needs, so I wasn’t going into extremes of the other direction by eating mindlessly just because things became available to me again, but by tuning in to what felt good for my body and sometimes that meant having a treat or something that was previously out of my diet because of certain protocols. Intuitive eating was really helpful to leaving behind such protocols and brain retraining showed me that the food wasn’t the isolated issue but that my body’s mechanics were in need of rewiring on a more functional level, which I did via brain retraining.
Is SIBO something that can be improved with brain retraining?
I believe it can, particularly in cases where more traditional protocols are not resolving it or it is recurring or chronic. That’s where I believe it can be helpful to look more holistically at the body to see if functionally it is optimized or if things are dysregulated elsewhere. Brain retraining allows you to get to the bottom of nervous system dysregulation and change any non-conscious behaviors that are contributing to it.
How did you train around Candida and food restrictions?
So I followed my doctor’s advise and eliminated all foods that were part of the anti-candida diet. It seemed to help the inflammation for a little while but I found myself miserable and emotionally not in a great place because of how restrictive my options were. I was down to about 3 bland meals that were on constant rotation. It was a sad way to live and when I had more testing done, it was still showing as present, which really upset me because there wasn’t anything else to eliminate from my diet. When I started to understand more about the brain’s involvement in this condition, particularly when there are already other issues related to nervous system dysregulation, I realized that the food wasn’t the problem but my brain was missignaling. So prior to reintroduction, I focused first on mindset to reach a more neutral association with the foods. I mentioned intuitive eating in a couple of the answers already because that was of huge help for me to build that less emotional or fearful relationship with food. I would incrementally add things back into my diet when I felt to be comfortable with the idea of doing so and see how my body reacted. It was a gradual process and in the beginning I would do small quantities or just one ingredient at a time. I would make sure I was in a good headspace and pay attention to any thoughts that contributed to a stress response, so I could offer myself more supportive chemistry and not influence or create any reactions just from those thoughts. I was able to see more clearly that the food wasn’t the problem but my thoughts/emotions about the food were a large part of it.
10) How do I decipher what is retrainable and what to avoid long-term? I’m training with histamines but also have other intolerances or inflammatory foods.
This was something I struggled with personally because I was adamant that my food sensitives and issues were separate from the rest of the limbic system impairment issues because I had the food stuff happening since I was a kid. I didn’t realize at the time, but my nervous system was already dysregulated early on in life so I didn’t really have a sense of my baseline until I got further in brain retraining as an adult.
Food was not something I went too deeply in at the beginning of my journey. I added the foods I wasn’t really imprinted by and focused on other areas of rewiring mainly. It wasn’t until I traveled about a year after starting brain retraining that I saw how much fear I held around certain foods and how stressful or challenging avoidance was of those foods. That experience gave me the courage to try because I saw how the relationship with foods was not helping my recovery. It was a stressor for me and I felt in my heart the best thing I could do for myself was to try to explore and see what was actually possible for me. So I let go of the protocols and started to trust more in my body’s ability to filter and digest. I was making strides in so many other areas through brain retraining, that I reached a place where I felt I was supported to try to open up my world to more food options. I remembered that the food wasn’t an isolated part of the inflammation or symptoms. It was that my body wasn’t optimized to process it, but through brain retraining, it gets rebalanced. Incremental training is a way to see what’s possible and it can be most supportive to approach it with a neutral mindset so that thoughts or feelings aren’t influencing or producing chemistry that will support inflammation. When you focus on that aspect of it, it becomes clear what foods are problematic. In my case, I learned what foods helped me feel more vibrant or supported my energy levels best and I understood inflammatory issues as more related to stress hormones from my management of thoughts or experiences, which I was empowered to change so I didn’t need to rely on changing my diet for relief.