This reader's Q&A was originally published in EmphaSIze, 1 February 2019:
Q: "I would love to know more about the link between food and regulation for individuals with sensory integration disorder." - Michelle
A: “In answer to the relationship between food and regulation for individuals with SI dysfunction: There is a fairly well researched link between eating and stress in the nutrition and dieting fields in the general adult population. The action of chewing provides great proprioception through the jaw and facial muscles. Sucking through a straw or sports bottle top gives good oral muscular prop information too. Proprioceptive inputs can be calming and regulating for many individuals with sensory integrative difficulties. Around the mouth and face there are also very high densities of tactile receptors and coupled with prop, anything in contact with the mouth gives us a huge amount of somatosensory information about items in a comforting way.
"Think developmentally to the stage of mouthing all objects to explore them as babies and toddlers. Comforters are items that get sucked, chewed or rubbed on the mouth or lips - dummies, blankets, silky labels, etc. On the flip side of the coin there are individuals who have difficulties with tactile sensations and therefore their range of textures they will tolerate can be restricted due to the hypersensitivity of their mouth, lips, tongue and they may be more likely to gag at texture differences presented to them. This would cause more of a dysregulation and the opposite of the regulation we as therapists try to help individuals achieve. I hope this helps." - Judy