Mindful eating improves digestive function, study suggests

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mindful-eating(NaturalHealth365)  Stress affects the body in a variety of ways.  An individual can experience any number of symptoms that are stress related, but one of the most significant is impaired digestion.  However, it isn’t as if you can just shut off the stress in your life – or at least most people can’t.

There are steps you can take, though, to minimize the impact that stress has on your body and health.  If you haven’t heard of mindful eating, it might be time to make some changes for the better.  You’ll be amazed at how this proper eating technique can calm down your nervous system.

What is the stress-digestion-mindfulness triad?

The stress-digestion-mindfulness triad is a concept that sheds light on the link between mind-body practices and homeostasis in the autonomic nervous system.  Specifically, this concept reveals how less stress in your life can improve digestive function.

The sympathetic nervous system, SNS, provides the “fight or flight” response that occurs when the body perceives that it is in danger.  This is a state of being stressed – an elevated stress response.  Symptoms include dilated pupils, increased heart rate, hyperalert, and slowed digestive function.  Sadly, most people dealing with a chronic health condition are living too much in this sympathetic state.

The parasympathetic nervous system, PNS, provides the “rest and digest” response.  It occurs when the body feels safe and calm – the opposite of feeling stressed.  It is a state of being relaxed which means you find it easier to relax, your heart rate slows, your breathing becomes steady and regular, and there is more blood flow to your gastrointestinal tract.  The parasymathetic state is where you want to be (more often) to promote healing within you.

This means that in times of stress, your digestion is compromised.  As a result, you may experience more digestive problems, including gastrointestinal upset.  Because your digestive system is not working efficiently or effectively, it can lead to obesity, heart disease, nutrient deficiencies, diabetes, and other conditions over time.  However, if the body is calm and relaxed most of the time, it can help improve your digestion and help you relax more.

Discover natural ways to improve digestion

Mindful eating is a way of fully engaging your body and mind in your meals.  This helps make food more enjoyable for you, but it also helps you be more present in the moment, in all areas of your life.  One of the most powerful ways to be more “mindful” – when eating – is to close your eyes and chew your food at least 30 – 50 times per mouthful.

Conscious chewing offers a great way to experience life in more of a parasympathetic state, almost immediately.  Most certainly, by the end of the meal, you will feel much more relaxed than when you started.  Try it and share your experiences in the comment section below.  This one tip can give you quite a positive, spiritual experience.

For more tips on how to improve your digestion and engage in mindful eating, keep reading.

Put down the smartphone

Avoid bringing your digital devices to the dinner table.  If you find that you struggle to stay off your smartphone, tablet, or other devices, pay attention to that.  Devices can be addicting, so you may have to deal with that first.

Pay attention to your body’s hunger cues

Hormones govern your hunger and satiety, so listening to your body tell you that it is hungry can help keep those hormones in check.  Avoid eating out of boredom or when you are nervous.

Eliminate distractions while eating

Don’t work while you eat.  In fact, don’t give in to distractions, so turn off your TV.  If you need something to relax, eat with friends and have a nice conversation.  If you are dining alone, you can turn on some music and relax.

Do some diaphragmatic breathing before you dine

Diaphragmatic breathing is a technique that involves deep breathing that expands the diaphragm.  It stimulates the vagus nerve, which in turn triggers the parasympathetic response.

Enjoy the sensory experience of eating

Eating isn’t just about stuffing food into your mouth, chewing, swallowing, and taking another bite.  It can be a sensory experience, and you should treat it as such.  When you get ready to eat, try to engage all of the senses instead of just a couple.

Take time to savor and enjoy your food

Eating in a rush makes you very likely to experience digestion issues.  Just the act of eating fast will increase your stress response, causing you to have more stress-related symptoms.  Slow down, take smaller bites, and enjoy the taste and texture of your food.

Taking deliberate steps to change your eating habits and reduce the stress in your life will help you not only have healthier, improved digestion but will also help you have a healthier, improved body, mind, and spirit.

Sources for this article include:

NIH.gov
LiveScience.com


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