“You are what you eat.” It’s an old adage in many cultures throughout the world. However, it should really be you are what your body does with what you eat. Many people experience digestive problems because of what and HOW they eat. One of the simplest things you can do to increase your health is to slow down and appreciate the food that you are eating.
Digestion actually begins in your mind and then proceeds to your mouth, where contact with your teeth and digestive enzymes in saliva break down your food. The cephalic (i.e., literally from the head) phase of digestion accounts for nearly 30% of your gastric acid secretions, which further cleaves your food into easily digestible parts. The mere sight, smells, sounds and anticipation of the food that you eat triggers this response.
If you’re like most people, however, you rush through the whole eating experience, barely acknowledging what you’re putting into your mouth and eat mindlessly. You eat while distracted—working, reading, talking and watching television—and swallow your food practically whole without conscious awareness. If you’re like the average person, you chew each bite only eight times. With all of these external pressures and distractions, it’s no wonder that as many as 70 million Americans experience a digestive problem like IBS, Crohn’s disease, GERD, constipation, or abdominal pain.
Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that you can take to improve your digestion and restore your well-being. Experiment with the following guidelines when you eat and notice how you feel afterward.
- Give Yourself Plenty of Time. Before you begin to eat your meal, give thanks and express appreciation for the abundance in your life. By expressing gratitude, you also develop patience and self-control. Work your way up to 20 minutes to complete your meal. Slowing down promotes a state of relaxation and will greatly enhance your digestion.
- Chew Your Food Thoroughly. Begin by chewing each bite of food 20 times. As you chew, savor the food and enjoy the different tastes in your mouth. By chewing more, you enhance your body’s assimilation and absorption of food. The smaller food particles also prevent unwanted microbes from fermenting the food that can lead to gas, bloating and indigestion.
- Practice Mindful Eating: Notice the colors, shapes, and smells of the food. As you chew, notice the sounds of the food and the chomping of your teeth the chewing produces. Notice the feel and texture of the food. Notice the taste. Be aware of the moment and intention to swallow the food. Be aware of the expansion and contraction of your chest/abdomen as you breath and chew your food.
- Create A Sacred Space. Set the intention of nourishing your body, mind and soul each time that you eat rather than simple “grabbing a quick bite.” Play some relaxing music and/or use your best dishware. Light a soft candle. Turn your T.V. off. Imagine that you are serving your meal to a welcomed guest. Any distraction like the sound of your phone, email notification from your laptop or smart phone can wait.
As you begin to practice eating this way, you may experience discomfort from the silence or the thoughts that are racing through your mind. Take the opportunity instead to know yourself and practice patience, compassion and kindness. Doing so will not only improve your health and well-being, but may also lead you to discover new aspects of yourself that were previously hidden by all the distractions.
To your health and success,