Stress & Eating – The five things you need to be aware of:
1. Not chewing your food thoroughly
Not chewing your food thoroughly because you are in a rush and/or stressed can lead to sub-optimal digestion. You know when your mouth waters at the thought, sight and/or smell of food and you find yourself salivating, well that’s the first part of the digestive process and it plays a critical role! Saliva triggers the gastric acid and digestive enzymes that are needed to digest food. Try to take time to chew each mouthful of food before you swallow it and trust me your body will thank you for it! The body uses B Vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Zinc more rapidly when we experience stress so you want to support your body to obtain these nutrients from your meals and chewing your food thoroughly is a great step in the right direction! Chewing your food thoroughly also means you will likely be eating slower which can give your body a better opportunity to communicate with your brain to let it know that it’s full.
2. Rushing to eat your meals
Rushing to eat your meals, eating your food quickly can place additional stress on the body. If you do rush your meals you’re probably familiar with the symptoms of discomfort and burping that follow, or maybe that heavy feeling that appears not long after you’ve finished your meal. If you are rushing then you may be taking in air whilst you are gulping your food down and your body then burps to release the air that gets trapped in the stomach. All of these symptoms are the body’s way of telling you it’s not at ease.
3. Eating meals on the go
Eating meals on the go can contribute to the symptoms I mention above. Eating when you are doing something else can also inhibit optimal digestion system. Currently in society the focus is more towards what is going on the outside of our body, our appearance and the external world around us, quite often to an unhealthy level and at the expense of what is happening on the inside. We often forget that every mouthful of food we eat has to be broken down into the tiniest of particles in order to be absorbed and utilised by the body. Eating meals ‘on the go’, or whilst we are focusing on other things, or whilst the mind is still racing with the ‘never ending to-do list’, means that the body is diverting energy away from the digestive system towards whatever the other thing is you are doing or thinking about. This can inhibit optimal digestion. Multi-tasking at meal times can lead to the body not being in the optimal ‘rest and digest’ state to receive, digest, absorb and utilise the nutrients from the food you are choosing to eat. In addition to this, stress can cause a lack of saliva to be produced which in turn can inhibit the digestion of carbohydrates in the mouth and contribute to reduced secretion of hydrochloric acid and other digestive enzymes needed for food digestion.
4. Sitting down to eat your meals
Sitting down and sitting up straight to eat your meals opens up the front of your body. This allows more space for your stomach and other organs to carry out their roles as part of the digestive process. Sitting upright and preferably at a table (not your work desk!) also usually leads to more time being taken to eat your meal so less rushing and potentially more ‘rest and digest mode’. Supporting your body whilst you eat could help ease indigestion, burping and feeling full after eating.
5. Eating meals away from distractions
Eating meals away from distractions such as your phone, the iPad, the TV, in a meeting, the computer can also help create the ‘rest and digest’ response at mealtimes. We tend to be proud of our abilities to multi-task however it’s not as magnificent a skill as we make it out to be, especially at mealtimes! To support our body when we are eating it’s best to really focus on each mouthful, chewing it thoroughly and allowing the mind and body to work together on digesting the food we are consuming. That way we can get the most nutritional benefit from the food we are eating which can help ease any of the above-mentioned symptoms that may arise.
So try to:
- Plan in sufficient time for eating
- Relax before you eat – a few abdominal breaths beforehand can help
- Sit up straight
- Focus solely on your food and avoid distractions
- Chew each mouthful thoroughly – remember ‘Your tummy hasn’t got teeth!’