Gut Health: Why eating slow is the way to go
Currently I am going through a mentorship program with Ben Greenfield and KionU. The amount of information I’m learning is fascinating and something I’ve wanted to dive deeper into to better serve my clients and others. Oftentimes I would get frustrated with all this education I would go through because I felt I wasn’t able to share it with many of my 1:1 clients or they didn’t know or ask about other things I do. That has been my main inspiration for this blog and for starting to build more of a social media presence. I want these to serve as a resource for current and future clients to look at for any need that may arise.
Recently in my course we touched on gut health and how to properly heal it when issues arise. The gut has been a hot topic recently and we are still barely scratching the surface on how we understand it. We now know that it has a component called the enteric nervous system which has a been dubbed the “second brain” located in the gut.
The following are a few interesting factoids about the enteric nervous system:
-It has approximately 100 million neurons
-It utilizes and/or secretes many of the same neurotransmitters as the CNS
-Can be affected by “non-gastrointestinal” hormones like estrogen and progesterone
-Is affected by various drugs that utilize similar pathways and receptors (this is one reason you may have heard CBD can be so powerful for improving gut issues)
-and most interestingly, it can be affected by our thoughts, feelings, and other unrelated sesnsations.
The gut is a complex beast that clearly has a huge effect on our bodies aside for digesting and assimilating food. For today’s topic I want to touch on a foundational habit that is crucial for having optimal digestion.
Such a simple task, yet very difficult in application. I’d be lying if I said I could easily do this myself. It takes awareness and being present when eating to properly implement. Good luck eating slowly when watching the evening news or keeping the mind busy with work related tasks or family issues. Trust me, I’ve tried and it just doesn’t happen. It takes effort to do consistently, but when it’s done it can have a profound effect on your digestion and gut health.
Digestion starts in the mouth via mastication (chewing) and the enzyme amylase in saliva. Amylase breaks down starches into simple sugars so they can proceed to digest more in the small intestine. It is also estimated that about 30% of this starch digestion starts in the mouth. I’d say it’s pretty important to take your time starting this process in the mouth so the small intestine isn’t bombarded with more work than necessary.
For all of this to work though the foundational habit of EATING SLOWLY must be implemented. When we take a bite of food it is ideal for it to turn into a nice mush called a bolus so we can swallow and let the stomach start the further breakdown and assimilation of food. If you’ve ever found food in your actual stools this may be one of the first places you should look. Do you take a huge bite with 3-5 bites and proceed to swallow like your trying to win the Nathan’s hot dog contest (ok maybe not that fast)? If the food isn’t chewed into that nice bolus it’s within reason that your digestivevsystem may have to work harder than necessary to do that breakdown for you, or worse, let some things literally slip through.
So how do you EAT SLOWLY?
Here are a few of my tips:
-Awareness of current eating speed is the first step. Bring out the stop watch next time you eat and see just how long a meal takes. Of course it’s relative to the size of the meal, but looking at times below 20 minutes for a full meal may indicate that food is being consumed way too quickly
-Chew each bite 25 times. This is where stuff gets difficult. If you are used to eating rather quickly like I was you will think this is an arduous process and quite time consuming. Just stick to it and note all the benefits it can bring. Improved digestion makes it so worth it alone. There are many other benefits of eating slowly, but that can be saved for another blog.
-Avoid a rushed meal or eating on the go. If you’re not present then you’re going to have a very hard time chewing multiple times and EATING SLOWLY so best to avoid it whenever possible.
-Eat in a relaxed state of mind. If you just got home from a stressful day or had a tough phone call/argument, take some time before entering into food consumption. When the body is stressed it doesn’t want to digest food optimally. When we’re stressed things like our breathing and heart rate can climb, so I would speculate the same happens with chewing and the rate at which it’s done.
This is such a simple task but it truly has the ability to provide benefit you would never believe. It is the foundation to learning HOW to eat and has benefits much further than just improving digestion (hint, if you’re trying to lose weight this habit is a game changer. Slowing down on eating will allow you to optimally secrete satiety hormones and have less risk of overeating. The act of being present also reduces incident of binges or uh oh meals). I’ve tried to practice this for little over a year and a half and I still struggle with it. The goal is to put yourself in the position where you are able to be present so the habit falls right into place. Give it a shot and let me know how it works for you 😊