The important part of digestion that most people overlook
I bet you know what good digestion feels like right? You take your probiotic religiously and eat as slowly as possible. You move your bowels well and treat your gut bacteria like the besties they are.
Sure, maybe you’ve had reflux or heartburn once in a while but you definitely know which foods go down well in your system and which don’t and honor it as best as you can.
But, did you know that most people are not fully engaging their digestive system to the best of their capacity?
When most people think about digestion, they imagine the stomach, small and large intestines doing all or most of the work. The truth is that digestion actually begins before you even take a single bite of food!
Yes, it’s called the cephalic phase of digestion or the cephalic digestive response and it’s an important first step of optimal digestion that most people overlook or completely ignore.
Let me explain.
Have you ever been walking down the street and you pass by a bakery and start smelling luscious pastries that are literally unescapable to your nose? You might notice, (if you’re hungry), that your stomach starts growling or that you even start salivating.
That is your body preparing for digestion and assimilation of food and nutrients. Digestive juices start churning and prepping your whole system for the delicacies you’re about to consume.
But, when you head into the bakery, you might start feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt, worry or conflict about the decision to buy that chocolate croissant and black and white cookie. Your inner dialogue about the consequences of this immediate dire decision haunts you and prevents you from fully engaging and dropping into your body to enjoy it.
You ultimately decide to go for it. But you eat the treats so fast and furiously and without true awareness or intention that it’s gone in literally seconds and so fast that it was even hard to enjoy it.
Not only did food morality and food shame prevent you from enjoying the pastry to begin with, but by eating it so fast you also probably missed yet another important part of the digestive process.
When we can slow down and savor and chew our food it allows for natural enzymes in our salivary glands to secrete and aid in masticating the food so it has an easier ride down the rest of the digestive tract. When we snarf our food down, there isn’t enough time for that process to happen effectively and can creative digestive distress, bloating, cramping and general digestive malaise.
Mindful and slow eating isn’t just about weight loss, woo-woo or enhancing your metabolism. It’s also a very effective way to ensure you are adequately digesting your food and assimilating the important nutrients from that food.
PRO TIP: When eating, slow way down and aim to chew twice as long as you normally feel comfortable doing. You’re going to feel the urge to swallow early, after all, it’s what you’ve always done. But with enough practice and awareness, you’ll eventually get used to chewing longer. You may even notice more flavor notes on your palate when you do so which guide you in knowing whether or not you truly enjoy the taste of that food. Hint: you may be surprised that the foods you thought you loved aren’t so great and vice versa.
For more mindful eating info, be sure to enroll in my free Mindful eating mini-course.