Mindful Eating for a Healthy Digestion
Stress wreaks havoc on the digestive tract and can cause heartburn, gas, bloating, abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements. In order to improve your digestive health for a long-term, it is key to target the nervous system effectively. Your nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, sends out messages to control your digestive tract.
If you are stressed, the brain is not signalling your body to digest your food. Rather, it is focused on increasing blood sugar, heart rate, muscle tension and breathing rate all to prepare your body to literally fight or flight. Thus, your state of mind while you eat influences your ability to digest your foods due to this connection between the brain and gut.
When you are eating on the go and in a state of fight-or-flight, or sympathetic drive, this reduces the glandular output of the digestive tract, meaning less stomach acid, digestive enzymes and hormones to regulate motility of the gut.
Without these proper signals, many commonly experience heartburn, gas, bloating, burping and irregular bowel movements.
How to Stop the Stress Response
Nutritional therapy could assist you with the guidance on improving digestion and reducing sympathetic drive. Nutritional therapist could show you the technics which could be done through the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness trains the brain to be in the present moment. This practice is shown to reduce stress hormones and promote relaxation to improve attention and reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and worry.
How to Practice Mindful Eating for a Healthy Digestion
Ask your self
When it comes to mindful eating, we can initially begin by asking ourselves some key questions:
- Why am I eating now: do I crave it or am I really hungry?
- What am I eating now: will this choice serve my wellness in some way or will my body and mind regret this choice? You can think of this question as a cost-benefit analysis. It is OK to treat yourself to something that isn’t necessarily the healthiest choice, if it is in moderation. Yet, ask yourself if it is worth it, or will it wreak havoc to the point at which it is no longer even a treat?
- What else am I doing now: am I going to eat something while I am on my phone, reading a book, or watching TV, or having a conversation? Give yourself permission to JUST eat.
Before you lean in to whatever it is you are going to ingest, take a moment to reflect on how grateful you are for being able to engage in this meal. This can be a formal prayer, or as informal as saying thank you in your mind or out loud to the sun, the earth, the farmers, and even the universe for having a hand in delivering this food to your mouth.
Even mindful breathing could help you to settle down. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes in a quiet location to sit and listen to this 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
It is so common to eat on the go that many fail to appreciate the consequence this has on our digestion. The less you chew, the harder it is to digest. Get into the habit of focusing on eating.
Avoid multi-tasking and take a moment to breathe, slow down and appreciate the food in front of you. Listen to this 5 minute guide to mindful eating.
Chew, and then chew again
Since our actual digestion begins with chewing, taking the time to chew, and then chew again, helps the enzymes in our saliva do its job so that we can effectively absorb nutrients and get the most out of the food we are eating.
There is eating and then there is dining. Many of us don’t have the time to sit down to a formal meal, especially during a busy work day. Yet, dining can be as simple as allowing yourself to experience every sensation of your meal as it unfolds with each moment. Dine by indulging in the different aromas, textures, and tastes of everything you eat, instead of going from bite to bite—or, more often, swallow to swallow.
Engage your attention
Whether you are practicing a formal sitting meditation using the breath as your guide, or eating mindfully, a core component to mindfulness practice is engaging your attention, tuning-in, and regulating if necessary. Our minds inevitably wander—that is just a fact of being human. When you are eating and begin to notice the mental chatter and commentary, without judgment, see if you can redirect your attention back to the experience of dining; of experiencing all sensations.
To learn more about Mindful Eating For a Healthy Digestion please contact me and we could discuss how my nutritional protocol could help you.
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- Panahi, Faeze, and Mahbobeh Faramarzi (2016). The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Depression and Anxiety in Women with Premenstrual Syndrome. [Online]. Acceded: 03 March 2019.