Tag Archives: digestion

Guest Posts Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Breaking the Eating-While-Stressed Cycle

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On this web site, we talk a lot about eating real food, being mindful of what substances we put into our bodies, and how it affects us. But it’s also important to remember to slow down and stop to eat a nourishing meal, without stress.

Stress can affect us in so many negative ways, more than most of us realize. Even if you are eating a healthy meal, if you are anxious or preoccupied and trying to do something else, your digestion can be negatively impacted and you may not receive the full benefit of your meal.

Thanks to Elizabeth Walling from Living the Nourished Life for this great post. I know I’m guilty of doing this, so it’s a good reminder to take a break, sit down, and really focus on and savor my meal.

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The good news is that habits are broken the same way they’re made. You can remove one brick at a time from this wall and rewire your brain chemistry one step at a time by making a few simple changes:

  1. Be aware of how you feel when you eat. You may or may not be eating in direct response to stress, but are you generally stressed when you eat? If you’re not sure, try answering these questions:
  2. - Do you multitask while you eat? That is, are you making phone calls, typing emails, writing your shopping list, driving to an appointment or cleaning the kitchen while you’re eating?

    - Do your mealtimes typically occur right after a stressful period, like a morning business meeting or a long day of work? (Yes, chasing a toddler around all day counts!)

    If this rings a bell, you may have a habit of eating when you’re stressed. If you’re still not sure, simply start making a mental note of your meal timing and see what you find out. You might be eating while stressed more than you realized!

  3. Now that you have an idea of how often you’re eating while stressed, it’s time to take a few simple action steps. I don’t expect you to change your life schedule so that every mealtime occurs in a complete haven of peaceful bliss, but you can reduce your level of stress directly before a meal:
  4. - First, pause before you eat and give yourself a moment to relax. Take a few deep, slow breaths. Feel your heart rate normalize and allow yourself to take a break from your day. If you don’t have a lot of time, even 30 seconds of relaxation before a meal can make a world of difference. If you don’t believe me, try it. You’ll be surprised.

    - Next, eat slowly and mindfully. Enjoy your food and your mealtime. Eating slowly and stopping when you’re satisfied allows your body to have a normal neurological response to your meal. Eating too quickly and overeating exaggerates the biochemical response and sets up a roller coaster ride of extremes.

Now, keep in mind you don’t have to do this perfectly every time you eat. Remember the brick wall: we’re not trying to plow a wrecking ball through it; we’re just trying to take down one brick at a time. The body tends to respond more positively to slow but consistent change, and that’s generally how healthy habits are made (and kept!). So next time you eat, simply be aware and try to make the best out of it. It makes more of a difference than you’d think.
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Elizabeth Walling is an independent health researcher and freelance writer. She is the creator of Living The Nourished Life, a source of information for others who are also interested in improving their health and well-being the natural way.  She lives with her husband of seven years and two children in the beautiful mountains of northern Alabama (along with a general menagerie of farm animals). Their family drinks raw milk, unschools, and basically enjoys living outside of the box.

This post is part of Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival.


Guest Posts Healthy Living

How Stress Impacts Digestion

Most of us think of digestion in terms of the food we eat. And while the quality of our food certainly affects our digestive health, the impact of stress on digestion cannot be ignored. All the raw foods, enzymes and herbal bitters in the world can’t help you if your digestive difficulties are caused by stress.

How Stress Impacts Digestion

When you become stressed, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body. This typically causes our pulse to quicken and our breathing to become more rapid. What many people don’t realize is that these stress hormones also cause changes in the digestion system, such as:

- decreased blood flow to digestive tissues
- reduced production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes
- heartburn and acid reflux
- nausea
- stomach pains
- lack of appetite

Chronic stress can produce inflammation throughout the entire digestive system. This can greatly impair your ability to fully digest your food and assimilate vital nutrients. Over the long term, stress can eventually cause chronic digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Stress and Digestion: What You Can Do

Try some relaxation exercises. These simple routines can help reduce the impact of stress on your body and your life. You’d be surprised how refreshed you’ll feel after just a few minutes of practicing relaxation techniques. Try one of these at least once per day:

- Lie down in a quiet place and slowly release the tension in your body. Start by relaxing your face, head and neck. Then move on to relax the shoulders, back, chest, arms, hands, abdomen, hips, legs and feet. Relax one part of your body at a time, and make sure it is fully relaxed before moving on to the next.

- Sit or lie down in a quiet place, close your eyes and practice deep breathing exercises. Simply spend a few minutes breathing slowly and deeply, concentrating on the rhythm of your breath. This is incredibly relaxing and will have you feeling recharged in no time.

Relax before eating. When you sit down for a meal, instead of digging right in, perform a little relaxation ritual first:

- Before you even pick up your fork, take a slow, deep breath and try to release any tension in your muscles.

- Eat slowly and enjoy your food, chewing it thoroughly and focusing on the nutrients and energy your meal is providing you.

- Try not to let yourself dwell on stressful thoughts or situations during your meal. Simply enjoy your mealtime and allow your body to utilize the nourishment it needs.

Reduce and manage your stress. We are often in more control of our daily stressors than we realize. We can’t always change situations that are causing us to feel stressed (although sometimes we can), but we can always choose to deal with them in a way that doesn’t damage our health. This takes great practice (especially if you are a naturally impatient or anxious person like myself), but over time, learning to take things in stride can greatly reduce your overall stress levels.

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About the Author: Elizabeth Walling is an independent health researcher and freelance writer. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness on her blog The Nourished Life.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday hosted by A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa.