Many of our readers want better gut health, so they focus almost purely on what they eat, drink, and swallow in the form of supplements.
Meanwhile, the solution to better gut health for many lies within the nervous system, the mind, and the emotional state before, during, and after eating.
Better Gut Health Isn’t Always About The Food
So many of our readers and students have made huge strides in eating nourishing whole food, eliminating potentially irritating ingredients, and adjusting to a new eating lifestyle.
Yet many, despite the changes, still feel that something’s missing,..
Their gut is still upset. Their reactions to foods are unpredictable and not always logical.
And try as they might, supplements and foods have not given them the better gut health that they’ve worked so hard to achieve.
When having these discussions, I’ll ask a few questions:
- What are you thinking about while eating?
- Tell me a bit about where you are eating.
- Do you notice any particular emotions?
- Do you eat when hungry and stop eating when full?
- Is your stomach relaxed or tense?
- Is your breathing easy or difficult?
- Are you out of breath while eating, chewing, talking?
- Who’s around when you are eating?
As you can see, these questions seem to have nothing to do with better gut health or the quality and quantity of the food, but everything to do with the physical environment and mood.
The state of the body and mind while food is making its glorious entrance to be chewed, digested, absorbed and assimilated can be as important to better gut health as the food itself. You can have the most pristine food, and still be in a physiological state that continues a cycle of poor digestion and gut distress.
There are many reasons why our bodies may not be in an optimal rest and digest mode.
The wiring of digestion and relaxation is ancient, sometimes jerky and largely unconscious.
Thus what you are thinking about, what happened this morning, who you are eating with, and what is about to happen next, may play more of a role in impaired digestion than you think.
It’s not just mindless eating
Mindless eating, the act of taking in food without paying attention, could easily be solved by just paying attention, but there is more going on.
While noticing and paying attention to your food is key, and I teach that daily, noticing your physiology while you are eating is an important piece of the digestive puzzle that you may need to think about.
Your nervous system state gets in the way
If your body is stuck in a fight or flight response, whether due to a physical stressor or an emotional one, shutting down digestion is a part of that response.
Luckily, there are many ways to settle the body and shift into a rest and digest state. A state characterized by peristalsis, a slower heart rate, and a specific tone of facial muscles and breath. A physiological state that’s supportive of taking in nourishment rather than defending the body.
It’s all about paying attention
Paying attention without judgment, moment to moment, is what will support your shift out of the tight and achy responses associated with fight or flight and allow you to enjoy, take in and assimilate your food properly.
You can start this process of paying attention and settling the nervous system by first developing excellent observation skills.
Luckily, these take little time, and are an important start to the process.
We will continue through future articles and discussions, but for now, let’s just work on your meals for today.
Answer 3 simple questions before and after meals
1. On a scale of 1-10, how hungry are you?
2. Are you noticing any strong emotions?
3. Are you having any particular thoughts?
Remember to repeat these three questions after you’ve finished eating, too.
For best results, download the printable card I created as a reminder and carry it with you.
Print it off, place at your table, stick to your fridge, or fold it up and tuck into your wallet.
Check in, and notice how you feel before and after each meal.
You’re already on your way to better gut health
This simple check-in is the foundation on which we will build further skills to support a settled nervous system for optimal digestion and better gut health.
I’ll be following up in a few days with some next steps, so be sure to check back here or watch your email for an update from me!
PS. Click here to get your download and email updates on your next steps to better gut health.
Thank you for this useful information! I probably start every meal a little stressed because I’m the one preparing it and trying to get it all on the table on time. I didn’t realize the negative impact this could have.