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Reactive Mode Mind and Body Symptoms

Reactive mode affects every part of your mind and body!

Danger cues trigger immediate mind/body changes to prepare for flight or fight. These symptoms may feel “normal” when chronically stuck in reactive mode.

  • trembling
  • chest pain
  • headache
  • flushing
  • sweating
  • difficulty concentrating
  • dizziness
  • nausea/diarrhea
  • stomachache
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in the throat
  • muscle tension

Chronic hypervigilance impairs body functions, especially the immune and digestive systems.   

 The digestive system shuts down in reactive mode (i.e., the mind/body is focused on escaping, not eating). No wonder there are so many digestive problems in our busy, modern world!

Chronic hypervigilance puts the immune system on perpetual high alert. When fighting or fleeing, the animal is likely to get a puncture wound (scrape or bite), and the immune system needs to provide a quick defence against germs. Mast cells (concentrated in body parts that meet the outside world) are essential to this immediate immune defence. Therefore, mast cells and the immune system are on high alert in reactive mode.

In the first article, I said that conditioned and biological mechanisms contribute to food sensitivity symptoms. The above consequences of reactive mode contribute to conditioned mechanisms (you will learn more in the remaining articles).

Reactive mode also impacts biological mechanisms by lowering your reaction threshold. For example:

  • In responsive mode, someone with peanut anaphylaxis may have symptoms if they eat more than 500 micrograms of peanut.
  • In reactive mode, they may have symptoms with 250 micrograms.

 Here are two experiences that ended in different outcomes depending on the individual’s mindset.

Experience: Symptoms after eating a carrot
Reactive MindsetResponsive Mindset
StoryI reacted to the carrot, and I won’t eat them anymore.The carrot may have bothered me, but it may have been something else. If it was the carrot, it might be a conditioned food reaction, which I can change.
Type of thoughtImpulsive. Probably inaccurate.Responsive. More likely to be accurate.
FeelingAnger, FearSlightly concerned
Nervous SystemHypervigilantRelaxed
ActionsEliminate carrotsComplete a scrap paper journal and let go of any suspicions.
Symptom-Food AssociationsA carrot-symptom association may develop (or reinforce an existing sensitivity).No effect.
Experience: Reading an article about grains and beans causing inflammation
Reactive MindsetResponsive Mindset
StoryA doctor wrote the article, so it must be true.If this article were accurate, people would experience increased inflammation when they start vegetarian diets.
Type of thoughtImpulsive, may not be accurateObservant. More likely to be accurate.
Nervous SystemHypervigilantRelaxed
ActionsEliminate grain and beans or continue eating them but worry about inflammation.Keep eating grains and beans without worrying about them.
Symptom-Food AssociationsAn association between grains/beans may develop.No effect.

In reactive mode, we want a quick escape from danger (i.e., symptom relief). Impulsive decisions include:   

  • food and symptom research,
  • dietary restrictions,
  • booking health appointments,
  • starting new treatments (diet plans, supplements, medication, etc.)


Impulsive decisions rarely move you forward on your journey to a better quality of life.

You often end up further behind where you started, as I discussed in the FAST is Not Giving Up video (Introduction).

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FAST Theory

Practical Application