Sometimes, it’s not just what we eat, but how we eat it.
I’ve spoken at length before about what foods we should (and shouldn’t) be eating to improve our digestion. But today I wanted to address something else that has a huge part to play in the quest for good gut health.
Believe it or not, the way in which we eat our food can have as much impact on our digestion as the actual food itself.
Do you want to feel better after eating and absorb more nutrients from your food? Are you looking to beat the bloat or get rid of those pesky gurgling noises your belly makes after a big meal?
Then you’ve got to start chilling out at meal times. And the rest of the day, for that matter.
More often than not, people I speak to who suffer from digestive problems are already eating the right foods. But because they spend most of their day in a stressed or anxious state, these foods aren’t doing them any good.
When we eat under stress, our ability to properly digest our food becomes compromised. We secrete fewer digestive enzymes and less stomach acid, which leads to an impaired ability to break down our food.
Not only does this mean that we are missing out on valuable nutrients, it can cause some serious digestive discomfort. Ever eaten a meal in a rush and then felt like you had a rock sitting in your stomach for hours afterwards?
This is the perfect example of how stress interferes with our digestion. And it’s the reason that stress and anxiety are the two biggest causes of digestive complaints in the whole world.
Lesson number 1: Chill out more, and you’ll notice your digestion improve instantly.
You’ve also got to give your food the attention it deserves. Multi-tasking at meal times never did anyone any good.
Why? Because our body perceives stress and distraction in exactly the same way. So when our mind is racing or we’re shovelling food down in a rush to make our 1 o’clock meeting, we create a stressful environment in the body.
In the first clinical trial of it’s kind, participants were asked to drink two identical mineral drinks. The first one was consumed in a parasympathetic (relaxed) state, whilst the other was consumed whilst the participants were involved in a conversation about financial planning.
You can probably guess what happened next. When they were assessed, the subjects who drank in the parasympathetic state assimilated significantly more nutrients than the subjects involved in the financial planning debate.
Our modern day lifestyles come with stresses, strains and distractions. I get that. But wherever possible, try to make your mealtimes mealtimes, and not time for catching up on emails or finishing off an essay.
Take time to enjoy your food and the company at the dinner table. Chew it thoroughly – your stomach doesn’t have teeth!
This may seem challenging at first, but I promise you it will make a world of difference.
Try it for three days, at every meal. If you don’t feel the difference, I’ll eat my hat (mindfully of course).