There is more and more research being done into how the brain and digestive system (our gut) influence each other. Considering the amount and type of stress, emotions and thoughts we have is essential whenever we see any unpleasant digestive symptoms.
When we are in any state of stress, our body is not able to digest foods well. This is because during times of stress we go into “fight or flight” mode. During this state our body shunts blood flow away from the digestive system and takes it to the muscles of the legs and arms. So eating while we are stressed, can cause bloating, cramping and pain. This is because if the digestive process does not get off to a good start then as our food moves through every stage of digestion, absorption and elimination are compromised.
There are some things we can do to change this….
- Sit down at a table & take a few deep breaths before starting a meal. This gets your body in a “rest & digest” state and out of the “fight or flight” state. If you find it hard to do this, there are apps that can help to tell you if you have reached a “rest & digest” & what to do if you haven’t. They will make sure with the aid of a monitor that you are in a state which is ready to accept and process food.
- Avoid eating when stressed and on the run. If you have to, then a shake with many nutrients that are already partially broken down for you would be the best option.
- Eat mindfully- when eating, just eat. Try to avoid watching TV, working or being on your phone. Concentrate on the flavour and textures, this will help your brain to begin the messages to release saliva and digestive enzymes. TAKE… YOUR… TIME.
- Chew your food thoroughly, this is the very beginning of digestion. It helps to mechanically break food into smaller pieces so that our enzymes have more surface area to work on. It also mixes it with the saliva to assist chemical digestion. Chewing each mouthful 20-30 times will really help.
- Eating slowly and mindfully will prevent overeating. It takes at least 12 minutes for your brain to register that you are full, from when you start eating. So if you eat quickly then you can easily overeat and feel bloated and uncomfortable. Eating on the run, in the car, when stressed, on the couch in front of the TV is enough to cause bloating, cramping and heartburn or reflux. Unfortunately we are doing this more and more these days, with more technologies to distract us, never switching off from work and over scheduling our already busy lives, sitting down and just eating a meal seems like a waste of time. But I can assure you it is not. We should make our meals a separate and important part of our day so that we can get the maximum benefit from our foods and also improve our health.
If we can get digestion STARTED off really well, then it is more likely that our food will be processed efficiently and correctly and allow for smooth travel the whole way through. This can all help to reduce symptoms like reflux, pain, cramping, bloating, excess gas, constipation and diarrhoea.
If any of these symptoms are new, worrying you or persistent then please see a healthcare professional
Yours for great health,
Danielle Elliott, Naturopath