When you have persistent tummy bloat and other digestive symptoms the go to is to stop, reassess what you’re eating and search out the trigger foods. You may be tempted to leave out groups of foods such as gluten, dairy, legumes, sugars or FODMAPS.
These elimination diets can be helpful in identifying foods that you are currently having difficulty to digest. But elimination diets and the low FODMAP diet are not designed to be long term answers. They may even leave you with nutrient shortages and food fears.
There is another way and it doesn’t involve food restriction.
How you eat matters, it can reduce heartburn, indigestion, gas & other symptoms of an upset stomach.
Clinical studies have proven that eating mindfully can help you reduce bloating, improve digestion, reduce sugar cravings & overeating and give you an improved sense of well-being.
When we eat in a relaxed state we can more easily break down foods this means less bloating, less brain fog and more nutrients for brain and body energy.
But for most of us, a busy lifestyle, family and relationship commitments, and a 24 hour news cycle has put our bodies and minds into a stressed state for at least some part of the day. This often leads to rushed meals or eating in a less than relaxed state.
A stressed body = an unhappy digestive system
When we are stressed – physically, emotionally or psychologically – our body activates our nervous system, putting emphasis on alertness this is known as the fight or flight response. When this happens our body depriortises digestion.
At the same time essential nutrients for digestion are used up for muscle and nervous system function. Stress also affects our gut microbiome which can cause issues with breaking down food, creating energy and imbalance like thrush & bacteria overgrowth.
Taking a mindful approach to eating
When I was at school we were always told to chew 30 time before taking another bite. I found it impossible then but I understand it more now (although 30 times is way to much for me even as an adult). When we take time to slow down and chew our food, we send signals to our brain that we are safe.
The action of chewing has a soothing effect on our nervous system and the chewing allows us to break down our food and take away the strain on our stomach. It also allows us to notice when we are full – avoiding overeating and indigestion.
This along with savouring our food, breathing well and sitting with good posture goes a long way towards healthy digestion.
The final piece of the mindful eating puzzle is eating in community. Spending our meal time with family, friends or loved ones allows us to relax further.
The natural ebb and flow of conversation slows down our eating and the laughter and chat helps to activate our vagus (vagal) nerve – a crucial element of healthy digestion.