Mindful eating: A tool to fix your digestive problems
Have you heard of mindful eating and wondered what all the hype is about? Well, there really is a lot of sense (and science) behind it. In short, it is really another way of slowing down, paying attention to what you are eating, and focusing on the act of chewing.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to all aspects of your food and the process of eating. It can also help reduce stress, as being mindful tricks your brain into thinking that ‘all is well in your world’, and that you are no longer in ‘flight or fight’ mode, which a lot of us operate in on a day to day basis.
Because stress can contribute to inflammation (yes, it really can), studies have shown that mindfulness may reduce digestive symptoms in people with ulcerative colitis and IBS.
It is easy to eat too much too quickly if you’re not paying attention, which can lead to bloating, gas, heartburn and indigestion, and indirectly to weight gain.
How can you eat mindfully?
If you are out or at home, you can:
- Focus on your food - by putting your phone away or eating at a table, not in front of a screen/TV.
- Actively pay attention to how your food looks, smells, tastes and feels in your mouth.
- Chew slowly.
- Notice when you are full and stop eating, even if there is more on your plate.
I know the above sounds straightforward, but it can be really tricky to do this, especially if you are eating with children. However, getting rid of devices when eating should be fairly straightforward and simple to do. You need to actively decide to do it and then follow through at each meal.
You may be surprised at how difficult you find this, as we have technology everywhere, but the benefits will be worthwhile. Notice how many younger people (although there are plenty of older people too) who are on their devices when out, instead of talking with their friends and family.
What's the importance of chewing?
You may also have been told that chewing is really important, but have you ever wondered why? Ask most people and they will say that digestion starts in your stomach. However, one of the most overlooked and important components of digestion is in your mouth, as this is where digestion really starts.
This is because amylase, a digestive enzyme, is produced in your mouth and starts the digestion of carbohydrates. Another reason is that your teeth break down food into smaller pieces so that the enzymes in your digestive tract are better able to break it down.
Poor chewing can, therefore, result in digestive problems, such as indigestion and bloating. It can also indirectly lead to weight gain, as you do not allow sufficient time for your brain to register that you are full.
Research has also shown that poor chewing has been linked to decreased nutrient absorption. As proper chewing is a deliberate act of slowness, chewing may also reduce stress. As stress is known to contribute to digestive problems, mindful chewing may also help improve some digestive problems.
Think each time you eat what’s more important - a relationship with your device, or a relationship with yourself, your friends and family?
If you have any digestive problems or disorders, then actively engaging in how you eat (as well as what you eat) is really a must.
Eating slowly, chewing mindfully and paying attention to your food promotes a relaxed state for your body and mind, potentially helping to prevent common digestive issues such as indigestion, bloating and gas.
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