It’s a little known fact that digestion begins in the brain, but if we eat when we are stressed, such as while we are working, driving, walking, eating too quickly, talking on the phone, basically any activity that disrupts the part of the brain that enables healthy digestion, then our body will not digest our food effectively. You have probably heard me bang on about the impact of undigested food in previous blog posts, or if you have seen me as a client, you will know that I will preach until the cows come home, about just how critical it is to have an optimally functioning digestive system, for your overall health.
When I had my full time clinic in Sydney, I referred every patient for analysis of their digestive function and sadly the majority of their protein digestion assessment, returned a 'poor' result, along with fat digestion. The reason for this common phenomena, can largely be attributed to a variety of factors, starting with inadequate production of hydrochloric acid within the stomach, eating too quickly, drinking water with meals, or while are distracted by other activities, rather than being completely present and focused on our meal time. This is where I like to refer to the European cultures such as the Greeks and Italians, who traditionally enjoy a long lazy lunch eaten over several hours and then retire for a lazy siesta. This way of eating, in combination with 'what' they traditionally eat – lots of fresh green vegetables and salads, seafood and lean unprocessed meats and olive oil, left them in good stead for low incidence of cancer, heart disease and diabetes – the major disease epidemics of the west.
Now, I’m not saying that we can all afford the luxury of taking a few hours off for our lunch break each day, but how about we start with actually taking a lunch 'BREAK' and stop the horrid habit of eating at your desk, as the first step towards reducing stress when you eat. Take time out to enjoy your meal outside, preferably in the sunshine, so you can kill two birds with one stone and grab a little vitamin D while you’re at it, and choose a quiet and relaxed environment, such as a park. Turn off your phone and that includes your facebook and twitter and just be completely present with eating your food, chewing slowly and without drinking any liquids, for at least twenty minutes either side of eating, ( with the exception of a few small sips of water if you really must). This way your cortisol production will not be unnecessarily over stimulated by activities that can be registered as 'stress' by the body and you will digest your food more effectively. You can read more about how stress can impact on your metabolic rate in a previous post I wrote here.
Most of us don’t realise that the chronic accumulation of undigested food within our intestine, is a major cause of toxicity and inflammation, that can also impact on your metabolic rate and ability to eliminate waste matter at an efficient rate. So you can master these mealtime basics, the result will earn you a lot of brownie points with your health over time, particularly towards the prevention of chronic illnesses and disease later in life! So if you have been struggling with ways to shift those unwanted kilo’s, despite making changes to your diet and exercising more, than stressful eating could be one underlying explanation for this.
Give these simple tricks a go and see if you notice a difference after a month or more….you have nothing to lose except for a few extra kilo’s and excess toxins.