digestion and stress, healthy gut, gut-brain axis
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Mindful In May – Part 2

13 May Mindful In May – Part 2

Are you Mindful of Mindfulness this May? Part 2…

How are you going with your Mindful in May challenge ? Is 10 minutes a day achievable? What time of the day works best for you?

We have been conscious of technology overload lately, and switching off hours before bedtime to ensure we receive quality rest and a peaceful sleep. Our 10 minutes everyday works best of a night time, special time to be present and switch off with some of the terrific meditation resources sent through from signing up for the Mindful In May challenge.


Are you mindful when you eat?

Continuing our mindful-in-may series, this week’s focus on digestion and stress.

Does stress cause digestive problems? Well you probably know first-hand the physical symptoms of stress on your body – sweaty palms, fatigue, inability to concentrate – but have you thought about how it may affect your digestion?

You might of heard it’s best to eat slowly, chew your food 20 times and maybe you also know it’s not a great idea to eat on the run. Makes sense huh?

As Kelsey Marksteiner from the Healthy gut healthy lifestyle explains, “No matter how hard you try to boost the well-being of your digestive system, you’ll never fully feel better without dealing with stress; it will put you right back where you started if you don’t address it”. – Read more of the article here.

The pace of the modern day woman is fast, sometimes we don’t even have time to eat lunch or rather no time to sit down and eat in a calm and relaxed manner.

So along with your meditation challenge this week,  perhaps consider taking the necessary time to spend with your food around meal times, even if it’s just one meal.

Perhaps it’s lunch time you neglect. Consider planning ahead – prepare or cook your lunch the evening before, instead of eating at your desk, take a walk outside alone, find a seat, switch off your phone and spend time enjoying every mouthful . Notice the taste sensations in your mouth. Take the full lunch break to enjoy your food.

So why is it absolutely necessary to take your time with your meal, especially if you are trying to heal digestive issues?

To go deeper into this subject, we’ve chatted with the For Life Retreats Nutritionist Josh Reed from Sol Nutrition in Byron Bay, about the effects stress really has on the way we process food and how we can help our belly in this process…

Josh in your opinion, can you explain the effect stress has on our digestion?

Have you ever heard the expression “Butterflies in the stomach”? You have probably felt it. Or you may have had that “gut-wrenching” feeling when something nerve wracking happens? You may experience it all the time?

Know that these expressions and feelings all have a valid reason. Our guts and brains have a very intimate connection. Stress, anxiety, sadness, and happiness, are all feelings that can trigger symptoms in the gut.

This connection between the brain and digestive tract is known as the gut-brain axis. Which means our emotions affect our digestion and our digestion can affect our emotions. For example, the very thought of food can release stomach juices before you have even taken your first bite. Troubled thoughts can also have this affect. You may have experienced nausea before doing something that makes you nervous (e.g. public speaking), or abdominal pain during stress? These feeling are very common.

Research now shows that emotional feelings, such as stress, influence the actually physiology of the gut, which can result in gut symptoms. For example, stress can affect the movement and contractions of the gastrointestinal tract, cause inflammation, or even make you more susceptible to infection.

It is therefore very important that we not only consider the foods we eat, but the state of mind we are in when eating. We want to aim for a digestive peace of mind.

Makes sense! So does it really make a big difference if we eat fast or slow? How so?

Why enjoy a meal quickly, when you could enjoy it for longer?

It is important to remember that our body needs time to digest, process and absorb the food we eat. If we eat food too quickly, we may not chew it into small enough pieces (remember, digestion starts in the mouth), we may gulp down a lot of air with the food (which can cause bloating) and we may not give the gut and brain enough time to communicate the feelings of fullness or satiety (which can lead to over-eating).

Aim for at least 15 minutes per meal, eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and really listen to your body.

Are there certain foods which stress our internal systems more than others?

We are all individualised in the way we digest and absorb foods. Some people can tolerate all types of foods, while other people are sensitive to many.

Some common foods that can stress our bodies include alcohol, refined or processed foods, caffeine, spicy foods and acidic foods, and for some people with existing digestive problems, certain sugars, grains and legumes can cause problems during the process of digestion.

What about foods that are calming to our digestive tracts and reduce stress?

Foods that help us reduce stress… My first point here would be to ensure that you are meeting all your nutrient requirements. Aim for wholefoods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, activated nuts & seeds, fish, and mineral rich foods.

If you are stressed, try to relax before eating, as stress impacts your digestion!

Peppermint tea has been shown to calm the muscles of the stomach and improve the flow of bile, so this nice warm drink can help if you have an upset stomach. T

In respect to digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome ( IBS), there are a number of dietary approaches that are determined by the individual’s whole picture. These can include altering fibre (there is more than one type) and fluid intake, probiotics, or looking into specific elimination type diets.

Remember, everyone is individualised, so there is no one-size-fits all approach to treating digestive issues.

Can you share with us please your 4 tips on eating more mindfully to reduce stress?

1. Watch, smell, listen, really taste, and feel the food you put in your mouth.

2. Aim for at least 15 minutes per meal and try to uni task on eating

3. Really enjoy your food. If you have a good relationship with food, I believe, it will nourish you even more.

4. Eat with your non- dominant hand! This breaks up your automatic hand-to-mouth flow and will make you more mindful as you’re trying to get the fork in your mouth!

Josh believes that food is the foundation of all health, as it affects every aspect of our life, including our mood, cognition, sleep, energy levels, immune function and well-being.

He also believes that a disease, condition, symptom, emotion, mental state and/or physical issue can be helped and potentially cured with the right nutrition, fitness and mindfulness.

Find out more about Josh Reed, his career highlights and his philosophy on health and the digestive system here.

Keep in touch, keep up to date with community recipes and expert interviews. Sign up here

In Health & Compassion,   FLR_Logo_900x600

 Your For Life Retreats Team

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