Mindful Eating Might Just Save Your Gut - 6 Ways to Promote Mindful Eating.

Have you ever caught yourself mid-meal, late for your next appointment trying to scarf your lunch down? I know I certainly have. And, like me, you know that within 20 minutes your gut is going to be a hot mess. 

See - when we are rushing to get somewhere or when we are stressed out, our nervous system is in what we call sympathetic mode - aka fight or flight. This state is necessary to optimize certain activities such as running from a threat, having sharp focus on your drive and performing physically during your workout because it directs blood flow the muscular system and diverts it from the digestive tract. It's role is to prime the body for action which is triggered by what the brain perceives as a threat or what we might consider stress. Under these conditions as you may have figured out, digestion is not optimal.

So which state is you might ask? Well the yin to the sympathetic nervous system's yang is the parasympathetic nervous system, aka the rest and digest system. When we are in this calmer state, the body directs blood flow to the gut and promotes relaxation. 

So why is all this science important? Well, in order for the gut to function optimally, a parasympathetic state should be desired while eating and for a period of time afterwards (you know that old saying - don't swim after eating? yeah, that's why). Indigestion, bloating, heartburn and IBS thrive in a gut that is not functioning optimally or being nourished in a parasympathetic state. 

So, how can we achieve this state? Mindful eating is a huge player in promoting gut health. Mindful eating means intentionally putting food on our plate and consciously taking each bite. Here are some helpful ways to promote mindful eating:

1. Prepare your own food - if you have the option, preparing your food gives you the chance to know exactly what you are putting into your body and to intentionally add nutrients and flavour. 

2. Smell your food before you eat - olfaction, or smell, is the first step in the digestive process even before taste - it promotes salivation which has some of the first necessary enzymes to break down our food adequately. 

3. Sit to eat - sitting to eat allows the body a chance to relax and give the muscles that are on tension (and demanding blood flow) a rest. This decrease in muscle blood flow demand will help the body divert more blood flow to the gut and promote better digestion.

4. Minimize distractions - distracted eating is not mindful eating. If we are scrolling through instagram or responding to emails over lunch, our presence is not with our meal and this opens the door to missing satiation cues and prevents full enjoyment of the food.

5. Chew, chew, chew your food - many people tend to eat far too fast - myself included often. Put the fork down between bites, take smaller portions with each bite and try to chew at least 15 times with each mouthful. Not only with this slow down your eating time, but it will promote the enzymatic processing of the food in the mouth. 

6. Practice gratitude for your food - practicing gratitude for your food, or even just being aware of what you are eating helps to increase mindfulness and presence with your meal. Meals are meant to be enjoyed, and practicing gratitude is one help to enjoy our food more. 

Do you have any other mindful eating tips? I would love to hear them! Comment below, or send a message my way!

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