what is biofeedback and why should i be listening to it?
Do you pay close attention to what your body is telling you? It gives you signals all day long, but do you really notice them? We are constantly being told (by these signals) to go to the restroom, to pull away when we touch something hot, to put a jacket on when we’re cold, etc. These are some very obvious things that the body signals. What about being tired, hungry, happy, angry, etc.? Are you conscious of these signals? They are often warning signs that we need to fix something. The term biofeedback might sound overwhelming to you if you’ve never heard of it before. Throughout this article, we will explore what is biofeedback, and why should I be listening to it?
Biofeedback measures different functions of the body. You’ve likely heard that “listening to your body” can give you some very important cues. These cues are really your body’s biofeedback telling you what it needs! As mentioned in the introduction, these cues can be huge indicators of what is happening within the body. Sometimes, they are a warning sign to change our behavior (eating, exercise, sleep, etc.). Sometimes they are a sign that indicates that the body likes what is happening. More often than not, people notice when they’re not feeling at their best and can look for changes to make. It is not as likely that they notice how good they’re feeling and take note to continue those actions, but they should!
There are various biofeedback measurements that can be done from a medical standpoint: measuring heart and pulse rate, measuring muscle tension (EMG), body temperature changes, evaluating brain activity, are just a few. These can all be very beneficial and provide you with great insight! On the other hand, there are a number of functions within the body that you can assess without visiting your doctor. Let’s take a closer look at those next.
These are cues from your body that can be used as indicators of what the body is in need of… or what to keep doing!
Do you eat out of habit, boredom or emotion?Do you pay close attention to the actual cues from the body that you need to eat? Often, people eat just because it’s “time” (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Dehydration can make the body feel hungry. Make note, you’re not actually feeling hungry… it’s a signal from the body that is misconstrued. You may just be thirsty! We always suggest that you drink a glass of water before turning to food. It’s very possible that your body is dehydrated and the brain mistakes this for hunger.
Eating the right amount of food and the right types of food are key to minimize “feeling” hungry. For most people, a diet high in carbohydrates and sugars does not keep them full for as long as a diet rich in vegetables and healthy fats does. Because of this, they might eat more often or find themselves falling victim to snacks and treats. Which, of course just starts the cycle all over again. Giving the body foods that are rich in vitamins and nutrients will sustain it for a longer period of time.When the body gets what it needs, and feels good, it tells us… we must pay attention.
Now, let’s talk about how hormones and hunger are connected. Any hormone imbalance in the body can wreak havoc on how you feel. There are two main hormones that are related to managing weight and appetite. They are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that is made by your fat cells. It is the hormone that helps you feel “full.” Ghrelin is a hormone that the stomach releases when it is empty. It sends the message to the brain that it’s time to eat! You can help balance these hormones by avoiding inflammatory foods, minimizing sugar intake, exercising regularly, getting good sleep, and increasing anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. You want both these hormones to be at their optimal levels to help the body understand various hunger signals.
Do you find that you often feel tired or fatigued… like you just never have energy? Are you reaching for coffee or caffeinated beverages regularly? Maybe it’s time to get that workout in and you really don’t feel like it? Got the mid-afternoon slump? This biofeedback signal is one that people often overlook. We chalk it up to being really busy and having a lot to do on a daily basis. Feeling low on energy is a sign that your body doesn’t have everything it needs.It is crucial to acknowledge that this is often connected to nutrition. What we eat is fuel for the body! Think of things you eat that might give you a sugar high or low. This shows up as a “burst” of energy or the sugar high and then a “crash” as you hit the low.
On the other hand, if you feel energetic, you are probably providing the body with what it needs to perform at its best. This is one biofeedback measurement that a good percentage of the population usually disregards… when you feel good, do you take note of what have you eaten? Do you recognize how fueling the body well helps you show up for your life? We usually notice when we don’t feel well and as mentioned above can associate this with certain things that we ate. We recommend that you also do this when you are feeling well! Did you fuel your body with nutritious foods that give you energy?
We would be willing to bet that most people do not make the connection between their energy and what they eat. A food journal can be helpful in tracking this biofeedback measurement. Knowing what you ate and when… then correlating that to your energy and mood can be very eye opening! If you start to feel sick, have digestive issues, or find yourself low on energy you can look back at what you ate. If you feel energetic and upbeat, you may also see a trend based on the nutrition (fuel) your body received.
We all know that getting enough sleep is important, right? Did you know that getting quality sleep is even more crucial? Sleep deprivation can cause a multitude of problems! Many of us struggle with sleep, especially creating a pattern. We believe that we have too much to do, stay up too late, wake up too early, without getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep most of us need. One part of this struggle is the amount of time spent on technology. The brain doesn’t know when it’s time to wind down and go to sleep because we’re exposing ourselves to so much blue light (from tv screens, computers, tablets, cellphones, etc.). This exposure throws off the balance of melatonin which is the sleep regulating hormone. It should be pretty clear by now not only how nearly everything we do every day is impacted by hormones but also how hormones impact nearly everything we do every day!
Let’s look at sleep and two other hormones. We’ve already talked about leptin and ghrelin above (see Hunger), so you’re already aware that they are hormones related to hunger. What do they have to do with sleep? An interesting fact is that without proper sleep the body makes less leptin and more ghrelin! As mentioned, leptin is responsible for signaling the brain that you are full, ghrelin is responsible for signaling hunger. You can see why an imbalance in these hormones can cause one to believe they are hungry or not really “feel” full. Without high quality sleep, these hormones don’t function how they are supposed to and therefore the body receives mixed signals regarding hunger.
Mood and Focus
In similar to our discussion regarding energy, mood and focus are very seldom attributed to diet and nutrition. Have you thought about this before? Our mood and ability to focus are reliant upon many things. First, mood and focus are both linked to hormones which we’ve already talked about in detail. What we will say here is that hormones affect the brain, more specifically the chemistry in the brain. Any hormonal changes can impact mood… you may even notice mood swings. Being happy and joyous and switching to sad or angry quickly can be a result of hormone imbalances. We suggest that you be conscious of these potential mood swings and if they are frequent or serious to consult your primary care physician to make sure there isn’t something underlying that needs to be addressed.
Second, are you aware that both mood and focus are connected to hunger? We’re sure you’ve heard the term “hangry.” You might find if you don’t eat when your body needs it you end up in a bad mood because you’re hungry! You might find that you lose the ability to focus and your mind wanders (short attention span) when you get hungry. Did you know that these situations don’t occur just when you’re hungry? They can also happen when your body isn’t getting fed the right things. The vitamins and nutrients that your body gets (or in many cases the lack thereof) can set the tone for both your mood and ability to focus.
Often referred to as libido, the sex drive is an individual’s desire (or possibly lack thereof) for sexual activity. There are physical, biological and psychological factors at play when looking at this topic. Also, sex drive can be affected by various things such as medication, depression, aging, chronic illnesses, stress, alcohol or drug use, etc. Often because these things impact balanced hormone levels. These conditions are not the only causes of a decreased sex drive, but they are very common. If you don’t find yourself in any of these categories, you may want to talk to your doctor to see what may be causing you to be disinterested. There can be more serious things at play that need to be addressed.
As you’ve seen throughout this article, there is a trend here, as this biofeedback measurement is also most closely connected to hormones. Again, we’ve discussed at great length how hormones work for (or against) your body. In this case, men and women have different levels of different hormones which can influence their sex drive. Remember that improper nutrition can strongly manipulate hormone levels up or down and cause a plethora of issues. Regarding sex drive, you will find that an imbalance resulting in less estrogen, progesterone and testosterone will usually result in a decreased libido (lowered interest in sexual activity). Long story short, take note if you experience a change in your sex drive. It is a warning that your body needs something. We always suggest looking to your nutrition first. Much like mood and focus, sex drive has a lot to do with how you feel. How you feel has a lot to do with what you are fueling your body with.
We’ve thoroughly examined what is biofeedback and why should I be listening to it throughout this article. Biofeedback measures different functions of the body and listening to these cues is incredibly important. Paying attention to what your body is telling you and focusing on the signals that occur in the body are simple ways to think about biofeedback.It tells us that we’re doing something wrong and need to fix it. It can also tell us that we’re doing something right and to keep it up! The most important thing is to not overlook the signals the body is giving us. We hope that you’ve learned about the cues, found some ways to measure these indicators and how acknowledging them can help your body function at your best! We believe that if you pay attention to the biofeedback, you can make changes and be the best version of you that you can be!