Supporting eating problems with essential oils

It’s Eating Disorders Awareness Week soon (2-8 March 2020), so we thought it would be an ideal time to talk about how we can use essential oils to help us rediscover our wisdom in relation to our food habits and eating.  

Disordered eating is much more common than we think, so if you suffer, please know you aren’t alone.  According to Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, there are around 1.25 million people in the UK living with an eating disorder. 

I’m a firm believer however, that we don’t have to define ourselves with the label of ‘eating disorders’; it is just a description for the fact that, at this moment, we are struggling with our eating - whether that shows in our temptations to restrict food, binge, over-exercise, or if we just have too much ‘thinking’ about food, and end up on yo-yo diets.  Whilst we can easily feel stuck with eating struggles, it is absolutely not the case (in my experience), and when we begin to instead notice our body’s inbuilt intuition with food, we can begin to find some freedom in this particular area.  

So, this post is for you if you are feeling any kind of struggle. I am going to share how we can discover a more intuitive way of eating, as well as some of the essential oils that can support us when we're suffering.

Discovering our intuition

Our body has an inbuilt wisdom, which is evident in the way that it knows how to breathe without us telling it to, it knows how to beat our hearts without us interfering – and that means it knows when its hungry, and when it is full, too.  Often, what gets in the way of these signals is our lack of trust in our body – and yet, we can see here that it is more than capable of keeping us going.

When we get caught in our heads about what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, or beating ourselves up about eating too much or not looking how society portrays that we should, we lose touch with our natural intuition.  That’s all that is happening when we struggle – we are simply caught in a battle between our head and our body.

Fear is often a common thing associated with disordered eating, as we can get into a cycle of being scared that we will eat too much – or even too little.  Again, this is simply fearful thinking, and takes us away from our natural wisdom.  Often, just seeing that our intuition with food is built-in can help us to recognise that we don’t need to be so fearful after all – though of course, if you’ve been in eating patterns for a while this can still seem like a huge thing to overcome. It is possible though, if we begin to listen to our bodies.  

Aromatherapy essential oils can help us with all of this.  Aromatherapy blends can help us tune into our natural wisdom with intuitive eating, and with addressing the mental suffering we have - including fear, overthinking, anxiety, and lack of trust. They can also help us to address some of the common digestive problems we can experience when we are not eating in alignment with our natural rhythms. 

Listening to our natural hunger wisdom

We all have the wisdom we need, if we can just trust it, but it is also beginning to notice it that helps us most.  We need to gain deeper awareness through listening deeply to our bodies’ signals.  To start to play with this, you could simply begin to notice your hunger throughout the day.  When you do feel hungry, pause for a moment, and use a blend of oils to help you tune in, as you bring deeper awareness to what is really going on.

Essential oils to help heighten awareness

There are many oils that can help us to bring more awareness to what is going on within, which allows us to simply pause before we act and decide what is really true in each moment.  When we do this, we respond to our wisdom, rather than our thinking, which can often get caught in a spiral! Some of the more meditative oils like Myrrh, Frankincense, Neroli, Patchouli, Cedarwood, Clary Sage and Yuzu can be great for putting us into a state that will help us tune in to our intuition, and see beyond our thinking about food.

So, when you’re feeling hungry, stressed, or if you’re struggling, why not grab these oils and create some blends to help you really listen to yourself?  

Suggested ‘tuning in’ blends

Some top blends to help you tune in to your intuition include:

  • Mindful meditation diffusion: If you have some time, mix 3 drops Myrrh, 3 drops Patchouli and 2 drops Neroli in water in a candle burner or aromatherapy diffuser and spend 15 minutes pausing to notice your thoughts, observing your body’s signals and tuning into your wisdom.  Are you really hungry in this moment?  What is your body telling you?  What is your mind telling you?  What is true for you?
  • Intuitive spritz: If you’re out and about, you can do this at your desk by simply pausing for 5 minutes and spraying yourself with a pre-prepared spritz.  Add 15 drops Cedarwood, 10 drops Yuzu and 5 drops Frankincense to 100ml Orange Flower Hydrolat (or water) in a spray bottle and carry it with you for when you are needing to tune-in.  Get mindful with what thoughts you have and what sensations there are in the body that will really tell you what is happening.

As you do this, you might begin to get more in touch with what is really true – whether your hunger signs are physical hunger, or perhaps mental hunger?  You may also begin to notice what thoughts come up surrounding fears or anxieties around food, as you also notice that these thoughts may not necessarily be as true as they feel.  There’s so much that can be illuminated when we create some space to be aware of our body and mind.

Overcoming the mental suffering 

Of course, freedom isn’t only found in awareness, but in dealing with the mental suffering that we might have around food, also.  If we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed about eating, or in a bad head-space about food and our weight, then this can feel really heavy.  So, I want to address this, because this is often the most challenging aspect of dealing with disordered eating.  However, it is possible to change our relationship with food and body fear.

Some emotions that can often come up with eating disorders include shame, fear, self-loathing, anxiety, comparison, overwhelm, guilt and depression.  It is important to recognise when you are feeling this, it is absolutely OK, and you are not broken – even when it feels like you are.  We all suffer in some way, otherwise we wouldn’t be human, so don’t beat yourself up.  Instead, this is the time for extreme self-care! 

Essential oils to help us mentally

There are so many essential oils to soothe the mind, and my advice to you is to use your intuition with the scents you love and sit and take your time choosing what makes you feel good.  However, here are some of my favourite oils for each emotion that might crop up with eating disorders:

  • Shame – Cypress is a beautiful oil that helps restore calm in the midst of difficult feelings
  • Fear – Geranium instils a sense of support and self-trust
  • Self-loathing – Rose is a great heart-chakra oil to help heal the heart and overcome self-hatred
  • Lacking confidence – Patchouli is valuable in helping feelings of self-confidence
  • Anxiety – Bergamot is a beautiful oil for nervous anxiety and stress
  • Comparison – Frankincense is a great oil for helping you reconnect to your own power, calming and lifting the spirits
  • Overwhelm – Lavender is a lovely oil for generally calming and relaxing you when you are feeling overwhelmed
  • Guilt – Jasmine is a beautiful oil for repressed feelings and a sense of guilt
  • Depression - Ylang Ylang is wonderful for helping feelings of low mood, depression and many other moods

Suggested mental suffering blends

Here are some suggestions for how to use these in blends when you are feeling the struggle:

  • Self-care bath: When you’re feeling in your painful emotions, it’s the best time to engage in some serious self-care.  Not only will this help distract you from thinking about food, but it will allow you to follow what lights you up and reconnect to what’s important – self love.  Mix 3 drops Rose, 2 drops Geranium and 2 drops Bergamot in 15ml of SLS free Shower Gel or Bath Oil  and add to the warm, running water of your bath.  Rest there for as long as you feel called to, simply breathing deeply and allowing yourself to relax.
  • Loving massage: If a bath isn’t quite your thing, why not try a massage for a little bit of self-love?  This can lift you, with the beautiful aromas surrounding you and the sensations can make you feel like you’re getting a warm hug.  Blend 2 drops Patchouli, 2 drops Ylang Ylang and 2 drops Lavender in 15ml of Grapeseed or Sweet Almond oil and massage into the skin, all over the body, in a direction towards the heart.  Allow yourself to enjoy the self-care you are gifting yourself; know that you are worth it, even if it doesn’t feel that way.

Often these self-care tips can distract you from your thoughts and reconnect you back to your wisdom, and you’ll feel much better.  Try it and see what happens!

Finding digestive relief 

Finally, when we aren’t eating in accordance with our body’s wisdom, we can begin to find imbalances in our physical digestion, leading to things like constipation, sluggish digestion, diarrhoea, flatulence, bloating, cramps, sickness and heartburn.  So, it is useful here to offer some essential oils and blends that can support with such issues to help rebalance you physically.

Essential oils to support digestion

There are a myriad of essential oils to support digestion, and below I’ve listed my top recommendations for a variety of digestive complaints:

  • Constipation – Ginger is very stimulating for the digestive system and can help with speeding things up, helping with constipation
  • Sluggish digestion – Grapefruit is also great as a digestive boost
  • Diarrhoea – Cardamon is a wonderful oil to help settle digestion and soothe any discomfort
  • Flatulence – Fennel is a lovely oil for helping rid gas, bloating and associated abdominal pains, balancing the intestines
  • Bloating  - Chamomile can help soothe and prevent bloating as it promotes proper digestion
  • Cramps – Dill can support with cramps and other digestive pains, including colic
  • Sickness – Mandarin/Tangerine is a wonderful oil for soothing symptoms associated with nausea and sickness
  • Heartburn – Peppermint is one of the most effective oils for the gastrointestinal tract, and is particularly helpful with heartburn

Suggested digestive relief blends

We never advocate ingesting essential oils, so when I suggest that we can use aromatherapy to help us heal our digestive symptoms, this is through topical application or diffusion, and never orally!  If you’re suffering digestive symptoms, try one of our all-round digestive tonic blends below, or substitute in your choice of oils from above.

  • Topical massage oil: Mix 2 drops Ginger, 2 drops Mandarin and 2 drops Fennel in 15ml of Grapeseed or Sweet Almond oil and apply to the affected area – in a direction towards the heart. Always massage the tummy in a clockwise direction. This should help soothe physical symptoms.
  • Digestive diffusion: Add 3 drops Grapefruit, 2 drops Chamomile and 2 drops Dill into some water in a candle burner or electric diffuser and enjoy the aromas for half an hour when you are feeling symptoms.

If you don't want to buy lots of individual oils you could try our Digestion pure essential oil which is expertly blended with Cardamon, Dill, Bergamot Mint, Cornmint and Tangerine. This can be used for massage and diffusion as per the above instructions.

These three ways to nourish our self offer tools and techniques to help us cope with any eating struggles we might face.  A holistic approach like this brings more awareness to what we are struggling with, helping us to care for our emotions and find relief for physical symptoms associated with eating challenges.  We hope this can bring some freedom for you – enjoy playing intuitively with your essential oils!

Nicole Barton
Consultant Aromatherapist

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