While nearly 75 percent of Americans report experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort (i.e. indigestion, gas, stomach cramping, bloating), most are quick to ignore these symptoms or resolve them with antacids or proton pump inhibitors.
What if I told you there was a very easy resolution to most of the discomfort you are feeling?
Have you ever stopped to think how long it takes you to eat a meal or considered how many tasks you're completing all while finishing your lunch? Or perhaps you're finishing your next meal in the car, sitting in traffic, and trying to make it to your next meeting on time (which is of course impossible in any major city unless you leave an hour early). Panic sets in. You're not going to make it your meeting on time. You're not going to reach that deadline for your assignment so naturally, you eat your meal faster.
I ask these questions primarily to help you realize how fast the average American consumes breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.
We never stop to breathe. Take several bites of our food and make sure it is adequately chewed before we swallow. I am willing to guess the average American takes anywhere from 4-10 bites of their food before they take a big swallow.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While our digestion is meant to break down food so it can be absorbed for nutrients and fuel, not chewing your food adequately can wreak considerable havoc on your digestive system.
Food is not broken down sufficiently before entering the digestive tract, which in turn leads to your digestive system having to work significantly harder.
Parasympathetic vs. Sympathetic Nervous System
What we must also consider is the two modes to which our autonomic nervous system (ANS) operates. The ANS regulates our bodies visceral functions (i.e. functions of organs such as the heart, stomach and intestines). Our ANS operates in parasympathetic and sympathetic state.
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) -
- Controls homeostasis and our body at rest
- Internal temperature is maintained
- Blood pressure decreases
- Heart rate decreases
- Saliva production increases
- Stomach movement and contraction increases
Generally speaking, this state restores our body to a state of calm. In other words, the parasympathetic nervous system puts our bodies in a "Rest & Digest" state.
Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)-
- Mobilizes our body to react in a fight-or-flight response
- Muscles contract
- Blood pressure increases
- Heart rate increases
- Saliva production decreases
- Digestion stops
- Cortisol (aka stress hormone) production from our adrenal glands increases
This sympathetic state is the state at which our body operates when we are rushing to finish a meal. Instead of simply feeling rushed, our body will automatically sense a threat is eminent and switches into survival mode. Digestion ceases until the perceived "threat" is no longer present.
It takes 20 minutes for your body to feel full. While I do not suggest drastically cutting down your calorie intake (especially if you're eating a healthy diet), you could potentially be consuming considerably more calories than your body needs.
Being more conscious of your eating habits can also help lower cortisol levels, and therefore promote weight loss. It can also improve nutrient absorption and lead to a more happy, energetic self. With greater energy, comes more desire to increase physical activity and enjoyment in daily activities.
So ask you this, How many bites are you actually taking?
In order for your meal to be sufficiently masticated, it's recommended to chew your food between 20-30 times. While that might sound like a lot, I urge you to be mindful of how quickly you're currently finishing a meal.
If 20-30 bites sounds like a lot, here are some:
Ways To Ease Digestion and Be Mindful of Your Eating Habits
Practice putting my fork down in between each bite
Drink warm water with meals - it will help ease digestion
Eat sitting down in a calm, relaxed state - sometimes sitting on the floor can help (don't laugh, try it first!)
Consume lemon juice or apple cider vinegar with meals - either can be added to your water or in homemade salad dressings
Focus on your breath- take deep breaths in between each bite
Meditate - if you often experience stress or anxiety in your life, I highly recommend looking into opportunities to meditate. There are tons of guided meditations on YouTube. You can also try the phone application Calm
SLOW down - remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your body that you are full
Make Time For Your Meals - focus on eating and eating alone. Don't let other activities get in the way. Only focus on sitting down, relaxing and enjoying your meal
Consume fermented foods like sauerkraut or kimchi - 1/2 cup with each meal will help increase hydrochloric acid production (an enzyme in the stomach that helps with break down protein)
Of course, there are conditions beyond just slowing down your eating habits that require specific supplementation and/or specific nutrition protocol. If this is you or you may have any other questions related to this post, I urge you to reach out to me at Ali@NourishedAbundance.com
As you sit down to eat today and everyday, I invite you to be more mindful of your eating habits. How can you continue to remind yourself to slow it down and truly enjoy your meal?
In Abundant Health,