Stress and Digestion

Do you normally feel bloated after eating? Do you usually suffer from heartburn? It probably means that maybe you are just eating under Stress.

Now-a-days is almost impossible to not find someone that is suffering from some form of stress. We live in a moment where everything needs to be done by yesterday, we often lead with stresses at work, the meetings, the projects, the emails, the patients, the papers, whatever our work may be we are most of our time running from a place to another or just to stress around what needs to be done. Alongside our long list of work duties we also have to find space to eat during all these. During periods of stress and lack of time we tend to eat quickly, looking at a computer, in the car on even walking. The ones that luckily have some time to eat, tend normally to use that moment to be checking their personal emails or just playing around social media, phone in a hand fork in the other… who never please raise their hand! I’m definitely in this group and I’m trying my best to end this cycle.

But why should we avoid this? Why is it important to be mindful when we are eating? Why do we need to take time to sit down, to be calm and not stressed about everything and anything during our meals? Well that is simples… because when we’re stressed or eating while walking our body is focus in everything less than our Digestion!

Our body is regulated by two types of responses ‘fight or flight’ and ‘rest and digest’. The ‘fight or flight’ response is regulated by our sympathetic nervous system, it prepare as for action, it activate our cardiovascular and muscular system, our heart rate increases, our muscles contract and our bronchioles dilate to prepare us to run or fight. In the other hand our gastrointestinal system is left for second plan, so our saliva production is reduced, we stop producing digestive enzymes and our body is going to use our reserves of energy (by converting glycogen in to glucose).

The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) in the other hand is called the ‘rest and digest’, because it helps to produce a state of equilibrium in the body. It restores the state of calm, allowing the body to relax and repair. Its action decrease heart rate, promotes the relaxation of the muscles and it stimulates the production of saliva and digestive enzymes. It’s easier now to understand why we need to activate our PNS system before eating if we want to digest and absorb what we are eating.

Principal consequences of eating under stress:

  • Bloating
  • Indigestion
  • Heart burning
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Inflammation of digestion system
  • Gastric Ulcers
  • Gain Weight

Let me give you some Strategies to start eat more mindfully and to reduce stress before meals time:

Practice deep breathing and self-reflection

Before starting to eat, take a moment to analyse how you feel, if you feel anxious, stressed or angry, take another moment to connect to yourself until you fill relaxed and ready to enjoy your meal. You can practice some breading exercises – realise 4 deep breathings, where you inhale from your nose and exhale from your month – you will feel the difference on your body and mind after these easy and quick exercise.

Find the time to seat

It’ll help your body to stop and relax, and give you time to appreciate what you going to eat.

Leave your phone in your bag, away from you!

Read emails, scrawling down on social media work is a stress mediator, so avoid to have your phone near you!

Eat mindfully and be grateful

Smell the food before eating, observe what you have in your plate, make your brain aware that is time for eating, these sensations will stimulate your PNS, which helps to stimulate digestion.

Chew, Chew and Chew, at least 15-20 times

The digestion starts in the month which make the chewing process very important. Don’t be focus on counting the number of chowing, do it in the beginning to be aware of the time, after you realise how long it takes that process, start to use that time to feel the food in your mouth, feel the textures, the temperature and the tastes, this will help you to breakdown your food and improve your digestion.

Eat slowly

If you think you can’t eat that slowly, try to put down the cutlery between each bite, and don’t pick them back until you have enjoyed and swallowed what you have in your mouth.  It helps you to be more aware of the time.

by: Andreia Machado

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *