Food Avoidance & Sensitivity Trap (FAST)

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Author: Wendy Busse, MSc, RD (Registered Dietitian)
Updated: May 2020

The Food Avoidance & Sensitivity Trap is a model that helps clients understand how worry and food avoidance creates conditioned food hypersensitivity. The FAST Freedom Program provides simple, practical advice to break free. 

Negative Experiences with Food 

Conditioned food hypersensitivity likely develops from our negative experiences with food. These experiences may include:

  • exposure to fearful food messages through internet research and online support groups
  • negative, repetitive thoughts about food, such as “Green peppers give me a rash.”
  • frustration with not finding answers to explain and treat symptoms
  • symptoms from physically-driven food triggers
  • social isolation and stress from dietary restriction

Through these negative experiences, the brain begins associating food with symptoms, and the limbic system becomes hypervigilant. The limbic system is a region in the brain that produces behavioural and emotional responses, especially when we sense danger. If we worry about or avoid certain foods, the limbic system overreacts, in turn creating conditioned sensitivities.

The Model

I’ve created this model to capture how conditioned food hypersensitivity may develop.

You can enter the cycle at any point. Here are three common scenarios:

  • Beth experienced a severe reaction to shrimp. In addition to eliminating shrimp, she also stopped eating fish because she was concerned that fish might also be a trigger. Over time, she became increasingly worried and started having symptoms when she was in the same room as shrimp or fish.
  • Susan had digestive problems and tried several diets: GAPS, SCD, low histamine, low salicylate, low FODMAP, as well as eliminating nightshades. After a while, she did not know what to eat, and everything seemed to bother her.
  • Mary searched the internet for answers about her mysterious symptoms. She eliminated milk and wheat, after reading that they are inflammatory. It was challenging to eat out, so she stopped socializing. A few months later, Mary noticed problems with all grains, so she did more research and ended up restricting them as well.

Symptoms and Suffering Increase Over Time

The Food Avoidance and Sensitivity Trap is a vicious cycle. It often starts with a few food restrictions, but gets worse, the longer you stay in the cycle. Eventually, you are stuck and can’t see a way out.

Freedom from the FAST

It’s easy to get trapped and not recognize the impact the cycle has had on your symptoms and life. The FAST Freedom Program provides simple, practical advice to break free.