By Naabi Methé, Naturopath.
BHSc (Nat), mNHAA.
Digestive complaints are a common problem in our modern lives, and a regular topic of conversation in Naturopathic consultations. The complex and important mind-body connection that occurs during the process of eating and digesting means that when the mind is stressed or not present, the digestive process may be 30% to 40% less effective. This can contribute to digestive stress such as bloating, flatulence and bowel irregularities. So before you assume you have a dietary intolerance and contemplate forking out for expensive allergy testing, take a moment to consider your digestive hygiene. Digestive hygiene doesn’t refer to the amount of dirt in your food, but rather how much support you offer your body to digest appropriately. It is also sometimes referred to as mindful eating.
Did You Know?
- Digestion starts with the brain and the 5 senses; specifically the sight, smell, taste and feel of your food.
- Slowing down and giving yourself time to savour your food allows the body the chance to switch into the parasympathetic nervous system mode (PSNS) also known as the ‘rest and digest’ system.
- The PSNS acts to slow the heart rate, redirects blood to the digestive organs and relaxes the sphincter muscles of the gastrointestinal tract to promote better digestion.
- The sympathetic nervous system mode (SNS) is the system responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response.
- The SNS is activated by stress, worry, caffeine, being in a rush; basically anything that causes the heart rate to increase – for many people this can be a constant everyday experience.
Thorough chewing is important for the breakdown of carbohydrates, protein and fats in the mouth and helps to reduce the workload of the digestive organs. Proper chewing increases the secretion of digestive enzymes in the mouth, stomach and small intestine, and helps to absorb all the wonderful nutrients from your food.
Tips To Improve Your Digestion:
- Slow down and sit when you eat.
- Don’t eat while watching a screen (computer, TV, mobile) as it can increase your SNS response.
- Take the time to savour the sight and smell of your food. This gives your brain the opportunity to send messages to your mouth and stomach to start producing and secreting digestive enzymes.
- Take smaller bites and hold the food in your mouth for a couple of seconds before chewing to get you salivating.
- Thoroughly chew each bite of food. This lessens the load on your stomach to further break down .
- Savour the flavours in your food.
Eating mindfully does not mean that you have to eat in silence and solitude. By all means, enjoy your meals with family and friends and enjoy the benefits of mindful eating and better health together.