Food is often thought of as merely fuel, but it's much more than that - it often enriches our soul and social lives too. If you are experiencing digestive distress, before you run off to do the latest 'detox', stop and consider your basic habits. You may find that you're neglecting one of the keys to smooth digestion!
What is the challenge?
If you are struggling to fit in meal times, always eating on the rush or mindlessly scrolling through your facebook feed while you have dinner, then there is an issue! When you are rushing through your days (and your food), not only won't you chew properly, but your body won't register those hunger and fullness cues properly.
In addition, if you're regularly eating foods you just don't enjoy (even healthy ones!), your body simply won't feel satisfied. If you're forcing yourself to eat kale salad every day and you are just hating every bite, it's no wonder you're looking for sweet treats afterwards. Not only does the stress response impair digestion, but giving into cravings often leads to poor choices that can further hurt the digestive process.
What should you do?
Enjoy your food! Yes, it's that simple.
Either choose foods you love or love the food you choose. Does that mean you will fill your days with donuts? No, but it does mean you can truly savour it when you do decide to indulge. If getting your veggies in daily is a struggle, make those healthy meals extra tasty by adding in herbs and spices or healthy flavourings.
Sit and enjoy your meal with no distractions - no TV, no phone! If you find it to be a struggle, there are apps that can help you to practice mindful eating (for example, Headspace). When you chew your food properly, you're helping to start the chain reaction of healthy digestion.
Why does it matter or not if you're paying attention to your food? When you scoff down your meals, or even when you habitually skip meals, your body's fight or flight (sympathetic) nervous system kicks into high gear. This means that energy is diverted away from the digestive organs and into the muscles and extremities, preparing you for the (perceived) danger ahead. What you want to do is flick the switch into 'rest and digest' mode (parasympathetic), to get the nourishment your body deserves from every bite. Not only will your body be able to process food better, eating slowly will promote satiety and a healthy body weight.
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Forget the perfect diet, it doesn't exist! The more you complicate matters, the more matters get complicated. Start with the basics. Approach your food with the appreciation and mindfulness it deserves - and enjoy, savour every bite! You'll be suprised how it affects the rest of your digestion process and can help keep you fuller for longer.