Slow down. This is the first step to improve your digestion naturally.
While studying the digestive system in Nutritional Therapy School, I was dumbfounded to learn this one very simple step can work wonders!
Why does it work?
First, let’s look at the parasympathetic vs. sympathetic nervous system:
The parasympathetic nervous system controls homeostasis in the body and is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” function. When your body is in a parasympathetic state, it can rest and heal. Your heart rate decreases, your muscles relax, stomach secretions and saliva production increase.
The sympathetic nervous system controls the body’s “fight or flight” response. When your body is in a sympathetic state, adrenaline is released, your muscles contract, your heart rate increases, your body speeds up and tenses up, secretions in the stomach decrease and saliva production decreases.
What does this have to do with digestion?
Digestion starts in the brain. When you think about food, your brain sends a signal to produce saliva. When you start eating, your stomach begins producing hydrochloric acid and other enzymes to help properly digest your food.
We’ve been led to believe that hydrochloric acid (aka stomach acid) is a bad thing, when in fact it’s an incredibly important part of digestion. Hydrochloric acid not only helps break down the food, it helps kill bad bacteria, pathogens, etc. that you might encounter.
When you’re in a hurry, eating on the go, stressed, anxious, etc. your body is in the sympathetic state. The amount of saliva and stomach secretions (like hydrochloric acid) decreases. This immediately negatively affects your digestive system. Your food won’t be digested as well. That can cause issues downstream in your gallbladder, liver, pancreas, intestines, metabolism, etc.
Do you see how a small change can make a huge difference?
How many of us eat in a hurry, or are stressed when consuming a meal? This fight-or-flight status is very harmful to our long-term health.
The good news is that you can start making changes to your digestion today.
I told my kids about this simple step, so we’ve been working together to eat slower and enjoy our food. Giving thanks before each meal is a good way to help remind us to slow down. We also starting putting our forks down between each bite, helping ensure we chew more slowly.
It takes some getting used to, but this simple step can have profound effects on your overall health. Give it a try and let me know what you think!