Biofeedback: How your body’s symptoms can help you conquer digestion, skin, & energy challenges

I say “biofeedback” a lot when talking about my diet and think an understanding of this concept plays an important role in optimizing one’s psychological and physical health. In a nutshell I view biofeedback as,

feedback from your body that can be used to make decisions and actions for optimizing your health (physical, emotional, etc).

I wrote this piece to help others understand and implement this concept which I think empowers one to build a routine of dietary inputs (food, supplements, etc) based on one’s bio-individuality.

In some cases when you or others are asked by your doctors “how you are feeling?” You sometimes give PHYSICAL symptoms or may share that something “doesn’t feel right?” Those physical symptoms or the sense that something is off is biofeedback.

I’ve observed that a primary source of biofeedback comes from our dietary inputs and that our diets can be a major tool to address health related issues–if not the primary tool.

My understanding comes from personal skin challenges connected to my diet (shared below) and nutrition insights from a personal trainer named Alexander Cortes. I don’t subscribe to Alexander’s non-health views but used a few of his paid workout programs and dietary and fitness books to physically transform myself.

Example: How I conquered skin Issues with biofeedback

To make things more concrete, I’ll share how I used biofeedback to overcome a dreadful six months of skin issues during my final college year in 2015–2016.

I love to eat and with internship money from summer I went on a feeding frenzy. I ate a majority of my weekly meals at restaurants and started experiencing strange symptoms a couple weeks into the semester. After eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I’d usually experience nothing; I might feel a little full but my day would carry on. All of a sudden that changed to the point where after most meals, my cheeks and the temple area of my face would get super itchy and minutes after this itchy sensation I’d feel and see several small flesh-colored bumps emerge in those areas. This went on for weeks and rather than see my diet as the culprit I blamed my skin care routine. I spent over $100 dollars in facial creams, moisturizers, and facial soaps trying to fix the itchiness problem but nothing worked so I eventually challenged the belief that my skincare caused the issues and asked myself: “The flare-ups typically happen after I eat right? Could what I’m eating be the problem?” To settle this question I found and read materials that explained the connection between diet and skin. I read The Clear Skin Diet, Annihilate Acne Guide, Clear for Life, and many blog posts. I created and implemented a diet of allowable foods and supplements from these resources immediately. My diet consisted of chicken wings, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato, and the occasional steak. My roommate joked that I no longer “enjoyed life” but since I felt I was suffering prior to this new diet I didn’t care.

These dietary changes seemed to improve my skin at first and the supplements (probiotic, vitamin D, vitamin A, a multivitamin, vitamin E) I took were “healthy” so I assumed they were helping. Sadly, after a month, my skin issues didn’t improve. The flare-ups worsened and began to feel like boiling volcanoes on my face. I had had enough. I woke up one morning and said: “Screw this!” Things were getting worse rather than improving so I stopped taking all probiotic and vitamin pills and kept my diet the same. Surprisingly, the intensity and number of itchy episodes dramatically reduced after a few days. This confused me because it suggested that the “healthy” supplements I took were exacerbating my skin condition. This skin journey turned me into a believer of the connection between diet and skin and pushed me to become more aware about changes in my body after eating. My dietary inputs were impacting my body in a way that triggered my body to produce reactions on my facial skin. I define biofeedback as listening to your body’s response to what you do and our skin health can be a valuable form of biofeedback for assessing the quality of our eating/diet habits.

To this day my skin continues to alarm me when my diet is off. If I don’t eat the right combination of foods those itchy episodes sometimes come back. I’m older now so I find it easier to identify the reasons why my body is reacting to dietary inputs which helps me strategize what changes to make to alleviate the issues. For example, I think a majority of my college skin issues were due to eating gluten and grain containing foods that weren’t prepared in ways that make them easier to digest. When I don’t know the cause of my biofeedback I typically perform dietary research to identify the root cause so I can adjust my diet accordingly. Keep in mind that biofeedback can also be used to identify what dietary inputs to continue taking. For example, if you eat a combination of foods that clear your skin, there’s probably something in those foods that your body wants you to continue consuming.

Biofeedback markers you can look out for

Below are some biofeedback markers I monitor on a regular basis to optimize my diet. Everyone is unique so your body may provide you biofeedback differently. Feel free to share your biofeedback markets if you’re comfortable. I personally use my facial skin, energy, and how digestion feels as my main markers.

  1. Do you have skin reactions after eating? This could be hours or days after eating. Do you think your skin improve or worsen depending on what you eat?
  2. Do you feel like you’re properly digesting what you’re eating? Example: do you feel bloated soon after or hours after eating .
  3. How are your bowel movements after eating? What do your stools look like when you defecate?
  4. How are your energy levels after eating?

Note: Some forms of biofeedback align with health conditions that the medical community will say requires doctor intervention. Doctor intervention definitely has its place but I don’t agree that doctor intervention is required for everything. It’s up to you on what next steps to take given your biofeedback.

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