Did you know that your senses are the initiator of digestion?
Seeing food, smelling it, hearing the pan sizzle, even thinking about a meal, stimulates a reflex reaction, causing the release of digestive juices, readying the stomach for food. This “predigestion” is known as Cephalic phase of digestion and accounts for about 20% of gastric secretion associated with eating a meal.
Since stomach acid is critical for proper digestion, this phase is critical for long-term health
Eating while engaged in other activities is a bit like driving a car when you are distracted. You might think you can drive just fine without giving 100% attention to the road, but the truth is, you’re at risk of having an accident.
You might have the impression that you are aware of what you are putting in your mouth while reading the newspaper or responding to an email, but you are missing out on the sensory aspects of eating.
Although we are all able to multi-task, our minds can only pay 100% attention to one thing at a time. If you are pre-occupied with other activities while eating, not only will your enjoyment of the meal be diminished, but it is also likely that you’ll be out of touch with your feelings of fullness. You might not stop eating until you are over full, or, you might discover that you feel full, but because you didn’t experience all the pleasures of your meal you may still have a profound desire to continue eating to experience those joys.
These days, so many of us eat at our desk and rush around with very little thought for what we’re putting in our mouth. If you’re not engaging with what you’re eating and not savouring food, that’s a pretty big percentage of gastric secretion to be missing out on!
This can lead to problems with the secretion of enzymes and acids, potentially resulting in symptoms like: constipation, bloating, the type of wind that doesn’t come from weather conditions and a feeling of heaviness after a meal.
Trying to engage your brain a little more when you are eating has many benefits. Here are some techniques you can use to make sure you are paying attention when you are eating
- Never eat out of a packet. Always make the effort to get a plate or make a point of sitting down and taking things out of the packet. This is a good one for getting you focused.
- Reduce distractions when you are eating. Mindful eating guru Jan Chozen Bays said: “When eating, just eat”. Eating with no phone, television, PC, newspaper or magazine in front of you for at least one meal a day allows your mind to enjoy the sensory experience of eating, and your body to focus on digestion.
- Pause before tucking in. Get in the habit of taking a few minutes before eating to de-stress and disconnect from whatever has been going on around you. Using a brief breathing exercise like breathing in for a count of 4, holding for 4, and breathing out for 4 can put you much more in tune with your body, calmer and more centred.
If you have any other tips or thoughts on this, why not drop them into the comments? It would be good to hear your views.