Top 3 Tips for Mindful Eating and Better Digestion by Karolina Zaremba CNP, Holistic Nutritionist
In my work as a holistic nutritionist, the most complaints I hear are issues with digestion. I might recommend a variety of things – from digestive enzymes, to probiotics or fibre supplements, to different therapeutic diets. But what I never fail to do is ask the client what their approach to eating or mealtime is like.
What do I mean by that?
Consider how the average person squeezes in meals. We’re constantly overworked, stressed, and pressed for time.
You might be standing, having a few bites of breakfast and chugging back coffee while you get your kids’ lunches ready. Or maybe you eat in the car while navigating through traffic on your way in to work. Your lunch may be a quick fast-food meal that you eat in five minutes on your break. You might have a work lunch over a meeting, or skip a meal altogether. When you get home, you probably want to tune everything out and have dinner during your favourite show. Sometimes, if you’re feeling particularly stressed or emotional, you might overeat or binge on your favourite comfort food.
I hate to break it to you, but if you have any (or many) of these habits, you’re setting yourself up for digestion failure! This can lead to so many symptoms, including gas, bloating, abdominal pain, food sensitivities, constipation or diarrhea, and poor absorption.
Here are my top 3 tips for mindful eating and better digestion:
Take three deep, long breaths before you eat.
This allows you to get a little mental break from what else is going on in your day. Deep breathing helps to calm your nervous system, and allows you to switch to what’s called the parasympathetic system. Essentially, this is our rest and digest phase, where the production of stress hormones, like cortisol, is decreased.
In parasympathetic mode, your body can focus its resources on producing and secreting substances you need to break down food, like stomach acid, bile, and digestive enzymes, as well as mechanically moving things along the GI tract.
Slow it down.
Think about it – your stomach doesn’t have teeth! Take the time to properly chew your food. Large pieces of food that aren’t properly broken down can cause irritation in your intestines, plus you won’t be able to absorb and use all of the nutrients in that food. Also, there are digestive enzymes in your saliva that begin to break down carbohydrates in the mouth.
You want to let each mouthful get mixed well with these enzymes so you don’t miss this first step! Chew your solid food until it’s a paste, and circulate liquid food like soup or smoothies in your mouth before swallowing.
Put away that phone, turn off the TV, and take a break from your work.
If you’re focused on scrolling through your feed, or eating at your desk while you work, you’re definitely not entering that parasympathic mode. It probably means you’re inhaling your food without really looking at it or tasting it. This leads to overeating because you’re not satisfied with your food. So, take a true lunch break, turn off the technology, and enjoy the look, smell, and taste of the food you’re eating.
Are you looking for more health inspiration? I started a social media campaign called the #HolisticPrinciple Movement. It’s a collection of principles to live by for true health & freedom. Every week, I share a new post that might be about healing through food, exercise, getting outside, mindfulness, your relationship to yourself, connecting with others, or any other aspect of life that relates to health. My goal is to empower people to prioritize their wellbeing and to use a natural, holistic approach to health that allows them to be the best version of themselves. Follow along @kz.health, or by using #HolisticPrinciple!