YOU ARE TOO SENSITIVE!
February 24, 2017
For my entire life I have had parents, friends, and teachers tell me that I was too_sensitive. Pain seemed to affect me more than anyone else in my family. I was overly emotional to mental hurt. I tended to have sensitivity to all smells, including cigarette smoke, which filled my house for my entire childhood.
Mainly, I had a sensitivity to food, which created a strange feeling in my mouth and tasted were very strong. My palate would accept very few food sources, causing my parents and family to call me persnickety and picky. No one really understood. As a fact, many still do not understand food sensitivity and sensory defensiveness.
The Medical Dictionary defines Sensory Defensiveness as an over-reaction to a non-noxious sensory stimulus resulting in an adverse or defensive response. Types of sensory defensiveness may be associated with tactile, oral, auditory, olfactory, visual, or movement stimuli.
In my practice as a life coach and Clinical Hypnotherapist, I have had many clients think they had anxiety, stress or problems with migraines or pain, but the diagnose led to one place: Sensory Defensiveness, which is form of Autism, actually. The therapy that helps these fine folks function is called “Sensory Integration,” which is part of the Autism Research Institute.
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Continued from above:
- Do clothing labels bother you?
- Do you find many different foods repulsive?
- Do loud sudden or piercing sounds startle you?
- Do you need to wear sunglasses even on a cloudy day?
- Do tunnels or escalators cause you panic?
Above are just a few of the ways this diagnosis can cause a person undo stress on his or her nervous system.
According to Wikipedia: in a normal nervous system, for instance when someone touches you, the brain experiences that touch through the somatosensory system (also somatosensory nervous system) is a complex system of nerve cells that responds to changes to the surface or internal state of the body. Nerve cells called “sensory receptors” send signals along a chain of nerve cells to the spinal cord where they may be processed by other nerve cells and then relayed to the brain for further processing. Sensory receptors are found in many parts of the body.
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To make this scenario easier to understand, if you have ever taken an antidepressant or a drug like Gabapentin for restless legs syndrome (RLS), to relieve numbness and tingling related to diabetes, to prevent hot flashes, and to relieve pain that can accompany shingles (known as post-herpetic neuralgia), you know that the result of taking the drug creates a lessening of sensation. In other words, the drug interrupts the neuro-receptors in such a way that you feel—less pain, less emotion, less sexual pleasure.
Now imagine neuro-receptors doing just the opposite—going on overdrive to cause an amplification of sensation, pain and feelings. This is what a person diagnosed with Sensory Defensiveness feels on a 24-hour basis.
We are sensitive to just about everything. However, my focus today is going to be on food sensitivity. I’ll begin with the journey of a young mother who came to me in tears: “My 5-year old daughter will only eat a total of 5 foods, none of them are healthy. I don’t know what to do. Can you help?”
I assured her there was help. I met with the daughter the next day. We talked about many things that we had in common, including all of the other ways we were sensitive. I shared with both mother and child about the complex issue of sensory defensiveness.
Even though the daughter was very young, she wanted to understand the problem just as much as her mother. Why wasn’t she like anyone else in her life?
We began to sort out the food that felt strange, tasted strange, and she simply couldn’t swallow because of texture. Then we looked at the food that she could tolerate—including the smell, the taste, the crunch, the textures. Every aspect of the food is important if you want to create a healthy food and doesn’t get rejected by her overly sensitive brain.
Using my vast knowledge of cooking, I began to create food that would have nutrition, textures and tastes she enjoyed most. She agreed that she would try at least one of these new foods a day for a period of a week. Within a week, we found 5 new nutritional food sources she could swallow. What a relief it was for her mother and family. This is an extreme example of food sensitivity.
For me, as a child, I was more repulsed by textures and smells than anything else. I wouldn’t eat a legume, a vegetable (except for green beans), or an onion. I detested any meat that was the texture of bologna or a hotdog. Pink and mushy wasn’t a good feeling to me. To this day, I can’t even imagine eating a real hotdog. Give me a tofu dog, and I’ll eat it.
Perhaps, even at a young age, I understood that animals had to die for me to eat these foods. That may have been way too much for young mind to handle. So, I simply cut myself off from all things that resembled animals. I could eat a hamburger or bacon, but put something on a bone in front of me, I’d be far less likely to eat it.
This last example is a sample of food sensitivity comes from different sources of sensory defensiveness, which is why this problem has to be looked at from a larger scope.
If you find yourself in any of the above paradigms or know someone suffering in this way, share this blog. I also recommend the great read: Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight, by Sharon Heller, Ph. D.
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Coming soon, my partner David Menton and I are planning to start a Vlog with Vegetable Based enriched recipes from my plethora of fun and easy ways to make food taste amazing. Enjoy!