The Easiest Thing To Do To Support Your Health
How often do you eat on the go? Grab Starbucks on the way to work, eat lunch at your desk, and then dinner is squeezed in between kids activities or client happy hours. And aren't you supposed to work out somewhere in there too?
Life is busy, there's no doubting that. But even if we are eating healthy, our busy-ness can still make us unhealthy. Why? Because the stress we experience every day is having a huge impact on our digestive system. Even a perfect diet is useless if our digestive system isn't working.
Luckily there's a few easy adjustments we can make to improve digestion and allow our bodies to really absorb all those nutrients we're getting in that whole foods diet we eat (we ARE eating a nutrient dense, whole foods diet, right?? If not, no worries- we'll get there) . In order to explain this, I'm going to get a little bit science-y on you.
Our nervous system is always in one of two states: sympathetic or parasympathetic. Sympathetic = fight or flight. It's very useful to switch into sympathetic mode when you are in an emergency, such as running from a bear. Luckily, most of us don't have to worry about bears. However, we do worry about A LOT of other things, daily. I'd be willing to bet that most of us live in this sympathetic state almost constantly--work, kids, money are all things that stress us out! And our bodies react to that stress the same way they would if we were being chased by a bear. To our bodies, both situations are emergencies. And guess what happens when we are in fight or flight mode? Not much else. Our body puts every bit of energy it has into survival. Which means it ain't got time to worry about digesting.
Now, let's talk about the other option; the parasympathetic state. In this mode, our bodies understand there is no imminent danger, so we can focus our energy on recovery, digestion, reproduction, and all those tasks that are super important, but not as important as immediate survival. This is where we want to be when we eat. The "rest and digest" state.
So how do we switch from "flight or fight" into "rest & digest" when we've got 15 minutes to scarf down lunch in between meetings, and 200 unread emails staring at us from the phone? This is the fun part. It's time to be a little selfish. It's time to take a moment to pause. This is a simple step that can make a huge difference in your digestion.
When we take a moment to pause before we eat, we trigger the start of our digestive process. Our digestive process begins in the brain. When we see and smell food, the brain sends a signal to start producing saliva, and specifically salivary amylase. This is the enzyme that begins the process of breaking down carbohydrates. Can we take this even one step further? After you have taken a moment to pause before you eat, let's take a little extra time chewing our food, while we're at it. Your stomach will thank you for it.
So one simple step. At your next meal, actually sit down to eat. Take a moment. Perhaps you pray, or say thank you to whomever you'd like for the food. Thank you to the earth and the animals that provided the meal you are about to eat. Slow down and enjoy it!
What's your favorite way to slow down? I'd love to hear your tips on how to switch into the parasympathetic state of "rest and digest". Comment below!