In our busy stressed lives we often eat in a hurry, eat whilst doing something else or eat for the sake of it. The result? We bolt our food down, we don’t chew it properly, and we set our digestive tract up for a big struggle.
Does this matter? Well, yes,
Digestive health is essential to overall health.
How else would we get all those nutrients we need? Those essential nutrients to give us energy, make hormones, build muscles, maintain healthy bones, skin and hair and most importantly, heal and repair our cells and more. If our digestive tract is set up for struggle, getting those nutrients is compromised and so is our health.
Many of our health issues have their root in the digestive system. Fatigue. Hormonal imbalances. Chronic inflammatory conditions, like autoimmune diseases, eczema, asthma, chronic sinusitis, chronic cystitis etc. All of these conditions behave much better when we heal our digestive tract. And it is now thought that conditions like diabetes type 2, hypertension, atherosclerosis and even alzheimers all have chronic inflammation as their root cause. So improving your digestive health is truly deserving of your time and attention.
Why is eating slowly and chewing food properly such a big deal in gut health?
When we eat food, we have to break it down it down into the tiny nutrient molecules which can be absorbed by the gut and delivered to the rest of the body. If this process fails, we can’t access the nutrients from our food, and our health begins to struggle.
So how do we make sure we break our food down properly? How can we do everything in our power to make sure those vital nutrients trapped in our food reach us? This is all about supporting the upper part of our digestive tract.
The upper part of the digestive tract is basically your mouth, oesophagus (swallowing tube), stomach (where we produce stomach acid) and the bit just beyond the stomach, called the duodenum. The duodenum is very special, because this is where the pancreas squirts digestive juices into the food and dissolves it.
So the steps of breaking down your food look like this:
- Mouth: chew (mechanical breakdown )
- Stomach : acid – think ‘acid bath’ which dissolves food especially proteins.
- Duodenum/pancreas: digestive enzymes – dissolves the food some more.
It is also important to understand that stomach acid and digestive juices are produced in good supply when we are relaxed, but when we are stressed, tense, or eat in a hurry, things power right down. When we are stressed or eating in a hurry, it also slows down the speed with which food is moved through these steps. This means food can end up sitting around in a sluggish stomach or sluggish duodenum. Under these conditions the food can start to ferment, which creates a whole additional layer of trouble!!
So all of this basically means that we need to eat in a relaxed state, so that plenty of digestive juices and stomach acid can be produced. We also need to chew our food really well, so that the biggest part of the work, of breaking food down, has been done. In other words, it’s the art of eating slowly!
Relax + chew = recipe for success = the art of eating slowly.
Mastering the art of eating slowly: 10 tips for success.
It’s so simple, and yet so many of us miss this important step of optimum digestion.
We forget to chew. We feel we don’t have time to chew. We’re too impatient! We eat
in a hurry, not really paying attention to the food we eat.
And it’s true, it’s one thing knowing what to do and something completely different is actually doing it!
So here are some practical tips to help you master the art of eating slowly:
- “I don’t have time to eat slowly” Some of my clients tell me they simply don’t have time to chew each mouthful, as it takes too long. And it’s true, it does take longer to eat this way. If you have to eat in a hurry, then don’t eat. I’m serious. It’s better to simply wait until you do have time to eat, without bolting your food down. You digestive health will be grateful, I promise you!
- No multitasking. Give eating your food your full focus. When you are eating, only do eating! No multitasking, no distraction, no ‘eating your lunch at your desk whilst checking emails, no eating supper in front of the TV. Because it is a form of ‘stress’ to the body, and you now know exactly what that does to your digestion
- Get into a relaxed state before you start to eat. You can develop you own little ritual here. for example take 3 few deep breaths beforeyou start to eat. It’s about getting into the relaxed state to spend time eating and enjoying your food
- Sit down at a table to eat. No standing up, eating at the kitchen counter, sitting on the edeg of the sofa etc. Sitting at a table builds the queue that you are about to eat. This makes it easier to give eating slowly and chewing your full attention.
- Focus on your senses. The smell, taste and texture of the food. The colour, the flavours. As you taste your food more deeply, take more notice of how the food feels in your mouth, and focus on the smell as well as the taste, you automatically start eating more slowly. And you get to enjoy your food a lot more. It becomes more of an experience, and it can fundamentally shift your relationship to food, by taking more notice of it.
- Take smaller bites of your food, so there is physically less food in your mouth to deal with. Or put less on your fork/ spoon.
- Put your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls. Sit back in your chair. Focus fully on the food in your mouth. Allow yourself to deepen the experience of the food.
- Chew every mouthful thoroughly. Its a real work out for your tongue, mouth and face!! It also encourages more production of saliva. By chewing thoroughly, you will experience a lot more of the flavours, and enjoy your food so much more!
- Only swallow the food once it is mushy, like baby food. the number of times you chew is irrelevant. It’s about breaking the food down with your teeth, so that the rest of your upper GI system can work on getting the nutrients out of your food. Effectively and efficiently.
- Think about all the beautiful things that the food you are eating can bring you. It can give you energy, health, heal and repair you, support you, nurture you, nourish you. There is so much to be grateful for, so much to thank our food for. This cultivates a deep gratitude, which not only supports better gut health but also your emotional health.
So now that you have learnt about the importance of chewing properly and eating slowly, and how it can massively benefit your digestive health and your overall health, why not take on this little challenge:
I challenge you to practice the art of eating slowly for one whole day in the next 7 days.
Are you up for it? Use the 10 ideas above to help you, and go for it! I would love to hear how you get on!