Could your attitude about food be worse than the food itself?

I have multiple food intolerances. Just recently I discovered that my IBS, which has gotten much worse over the last few years, is rooted in gluten intolerance. So now I have become that person. The difficult one who asks if the sauce or the soup contains gluten. Intolerances of this nature tend to make food the enemy. Every meal has the potential to cause incapacitating digestive issues, extreme fatigue, brain fog, or irritability. The struggle is real, the intolerance is real, but does the attitude I bring to the table make a difference in how badly my body reacts?

A friend of mine tells a story about a time when she indulged in a gooey triple chocolate brownie at a fancy restaurant. It was rich and delectable, full of gluten and sugar and bad oil, and completely irresistible in its confectionary splendor. The whole time she was eating it she was thinking about how terrible it was for her and how much she was going to regret it. After only a few bites, she was kicking herself for her poor choices and had herself completely tied up in knots, but she couldn’t stop until it was gone.

That night, sure enough, she was sick. Her worst fears about the brownie’s dark side came to haunt her, manifesting as terrible gut discomfort, diarrhea, and cramping that lasted all night long. She blamed the gluten, the sugar, and the restaurant-grade oil, which certainly played a role, but could it have been her belief system and subsequent emotional state that really caused the terrible sleepless night?

The population of microorganisms in the human gut has a huge impact on our mood, our decision-making process, even our behaviors. In fact, the more research that is done, the more obvious it is that we are largely controlled by the bugs in our guts! Our thoughts and emotions impact our digestion and vice versa. If we are upset while we are eating, there is a better than average chance that we will have indigestion. We have all experienced it.

How happy our microbiota are affects how happy we are and the communication goes both ways. If you are anxious or upset at the dinner table, your digestion will be affected. It may just be a matter of not absorbing nutrients properly, it could be a full-blown “disaster pants” type reaction or anything in between.


When you are worried that a food you are eating will make you sick, you become anxious, and what you are worried about becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You do become sick, but it might not be the actual food that is the culprit, it may be your attitude towards the food—or the dinner conversation. So, yes, I have multiple food intolerances, but my attitude while I am eating has the potential to make them much worse, or even make me sick when I didn’t eat anything I wasn’t supposed to.

The solution is eating mindfully. Slow down, breathe, pause before the meal to center yourself, take each bite as an individual experience, and use the experience as an opportunity to express gratitude. Enjoy your food. Dr. Emeran Mayer, author of the Mind-Gut Connection suggests not eating when you are upset. Sit down and take your time. Many people observe that they are more likely to experience bloat if they eat standing up or while feeling rushed.

The next time my friend went to the same restaurant, with their famously delicious signature brownie, her date suggested they order the delight to share. Only this time, I had walked her through how to eat mindfully. First, I asked her to relax and come fully into the present moment with a few deep breaths. Then savor the smell, texture, and taste slowly with gratitude and love. I wanted her to truly enjoy the brownie one bite at a time.

Not only did this practice help her enjoy the brownie even more, but she felt satisfied after only a few bites. She actually left some of the incredible ooey-gooey-ness on the plate and it felt great. She was fully satisfied and fulfilled, didn’t feel deprived at all, and felt accomplished in taking control of her body through her mind-gut connection. She called me the next morning to marvel that she hadn’t been sick at all.

If you find this useful, there’s a good chance your friends will, too. Share this with your friends right away while you are thinking of it. Thanks for reading!

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