• How You Eat Is Just as Important as What You Eat

    How You Eat Is Just as Important as What You Eat

    We tend to think that when we have digestive issues it is related to the food we are eating, and sometimes it is. But no matter how good your diet is, if your body is in a state of stress when you eat, that awesome food you are consuming can make you feel miserable.

    The sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and the parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) branches of the nervous system have opposite functions. When we are in danger, the sympathetic branch shuts down non-essential functions, like digestion, so we have the resources to run or fight. When we get out of danger, the parasympathetic activates digestion again.  If we are often in fight-or-flight mode, digestive function can be compromised. Activating the parasympathetic branch can help heal and rebalance digestive function.

    Improve digestion by activatng the parasympathetic system

    The single most important thing we can do to improve our digestive system is to make sure we are eating in a relaxed state. Here are three simple steps you can take to activate the rest-and-digest part of your nervous system before you eat that can help improve your digestion.

    • Sit down when you eat. Eating as we run or drive from one place to another keeps our bodies in a stress state, not a state conducive to digesting our food. Sitting when you eat helps activate the parasympathetic system.
    • Taking a few minutes to do slow, rhythmic breathing before eating. This activates the rest-and-digest part of the nervous system, improving your ability to digest and absorb your food.
    • Paying attention to the food you are eating. Believe it or not, digestion starts before food gets into your mouth. The sight and smell of food activate our gastric juices. If we are mindlessly eating food and not paying attention to what we are eating, our bodies don’t get the important messages they need to begin the digestion process.

    All of these practices will help activate the rest-and-digest part of the nervous system so our bodies can better digest and utilize the food we are eating.