Often the relationships we cherish most are the ones we have with people.
However, consider your relationship with your food. Are you at peace when you eat your meal? How do you feel after you finish your food? Are you angry while eating your food or are you stressed? Does your food yell back with fierce digestion repercussions such as bloating or chronic constipation?
“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food,” said Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician, often referred to as the father of Western medicine.
Hippocrates had it right. When we have internal problems, what we’ve put into our bodies was most likely the culprit to our pain. Food can also heal the body, not just from what we eat, but how we eat. And that’s where mindful eating comes in.
If you have a diet consisting of poor quality, processed foods, there is often unmanaged stress on the body and your digestive system is compromised.
Picture your digestive system like your local waste landfill. When garbage piles up, it is harmful for the environment. The same is true when layers of food buildup on your intestinal wall. When food isn’t digested properly, it sits and ferments in the intestine, toxins are introduced into the bloodstream, feeding fungi and parasites. This further decreases the absorption of your food.
When you practice mindful eating, more of what you eat will be digested and you will feel noticeably better, inside and out! Follow these five mindful eating techniques to improve your digestion.
Eat in a calm state
We live in a society where technology often controls our reins. We are on our phones, computers and T.V., talking, texting, working, or watching. Eating, however, should be your time, not controlled by your devices.
Put your cell phone on silent and close your laptop. This helps you be more relaxed. The parasympathetic nervous system in your body governs the digestive system, so when you’re operating under stress, your digestion system is compromised.
Choosing a calm and quiet environment and sitting at your kitchen table will allow you to relax. I mention the kitchen table, because a lot of times, people watch T.V. while eating and head to where that device is located. When you sit and eat, this helps your digestive tract, helping you focus on your meal and not your Twitter update.
After your meal, take a few minutes to rest, and allow your digestive process to begin. Common mindful practices such as enjoying nature, meditation, and yoga will help you prepare for mindful eating, improving your digestion system in the process.
Chew your food properly
Did you mother ever tell you to chew your food? Well, maybe it’s time you listen. Chewing your food 30 times (minimum!) should be your mindful eating practice, allowing your food to become a liquid, paste-like texture. The nutrients in your food will therefore be near the surface, which is more accessible to digestive enzymes within your digestive system.
On the other hand, when there are large chunks of food, they often pass through your intestine untouched by digestive secretions and the nutrients are often unabsorbed. Also, when you chew thoroughly, the liquid paste you’ve created can pass through your digestive system lubricated with saliva.
Food combining and sequencing
Think of your digestive system like the classic video game Tetris. When blocks fall down and create a full line, it disappears. When your food hits your digestive system free and clear of the harder to digest foods (or Tetris blocks), it is able to finish the process.
Yes, I know, you don’t want to be playing the game while eating; however, this analogy makes sense here. Fruits digest almost instantly, but if they are eaten after a denser protein, starchy, or high-fat food, they will ferment and wait for the meal to pass through. You will metaphorically have to start your Tetris game over again.
Here is the order in which to eat certain foods: fruits, vegetables and leafy greens, grains and starchy vegetables, legumes, and fats. Practice this mindful eating technique to avoid IBS, bloating, gas, or other chronic issues.
Jesus was known to have fasted for 40 days and nights in the Judean desert. You don’t need to fast for that long; however, taking a break from eating gives your digestive system a chance to rest. Just like you need sleep, so does your digestive system.
Fast for 14 hours in your 24-hour day. This is easier than your think. Stop eating after dinner (around seven p.m.), and eat breakfast around nine a.m. Also, finish eating three hours before bed. Break your fast with easy to digest foods, such as a smoothie or fruits.
Be grateful for your food
The energy you give your food matters, so being grateful for the food on your plate can help your state of mind. You are grateful for the food you eat, right? After all, it’s that food that allows us to live healthy and functional lives. This is a mindful eating technique where you will deliberately learn to appreciate your food and pay attention to its colors, tastes, and textures. You will be aware of the details of your food, so you give it a home, not a prison.
Chopra, D., Perfect Digestion: the key to balanced living (New York: Harmony Books, 1995), 36-39.
Dupont, C., The New Enlightened Eating: Simples Recipes for Extraordinary Living (Summertown: Books Alive, 2012), 19-23.
Albers, S., “Comfort Cravings: The 10 Best Healthy Eating Quotes,” Psychology Today web site, June 13, 2011; http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/comfort-cravings/201107/the-10-best-healthy-eating-quotes.
Chozen Bays, J., “Mindful Eating: Rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food,” Psychology Today web site, Feb. 5, 2009; http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindful-eating/200902/mindful-eating.
Pennington, K., “Holistic Health and Lifestyle Counselor Katherine Pennington Breaks Down The Scoop on Food Combing,” The Family Groove web site; http://www.thefamilygroove.com/jan11_MixedGreens.htm.