Too stressed to digest?
An increasing number of clients that come to see me for support in my Online Nutrition Clinic are challenged with digestive issues. Whether it’s bloating, pain or discomfort in the abdominal region or you’re visiting the toilet too frequently or not frequently enough, let me start off by recognising just how much digestion can have a HUGE impact on our quality of life.
While these symptoms are very common, they’re not normal.
With this in mind, I thought I would dedicate this week’s article to sharing some really helpful tips so you can hopefully optimise your digestive health and tackle some of the challenges that you might be experiencing with a different approach than you’ve tried so far.
Let’s be honest, it’s difficult to feel energised and uplifted when you’re not feeling 100% so I hope when you read the tips below it gives you a different perspective and a welcomed strategy.
DON’T OVER COMPLICATE IT
Sometimes we can convince ourselves that the cause of our digestive issues is more complicated than it really is; we read all sorts of contradicting information which tells us we may have a food intolerance, to cut out x, y and z, to get this tested or that tested and it can leave us feeling overwhelmed and paralysed.
We choose to tolerate our unpleasant symptoms because we simply don’t know where to begin with turning our health around and doing nothing is easier than wading through the mass of information that might not even work in the first place.
I hear you.
Let me say this, the answer to your digestive woes may be more simple than you think.
YOU AREN’T CHEWING YOUR FOOD PROPERLY
This is the easiest and most powerful point to begin with because thorough chewing can be a total game-changer and it’s something that is practised enough. Our meals tend to be rushed, more and more we eat on the run, while watching TV, working at our desks or scrolling through social media and this multi-tasking can cause us to chew less and over-eat more.
Let me highlight a very obvious but often forgotten about point: there are no teeth beyond our mouth! Our oesophagus is not lined with teeth so unless food is thoroughly broken down in the stomach, your stomach won’t want to allow food to move into your small intestine for onward digestion. A lack of chewing causes unnecessary energy expenditure later on in the digestive process which could be better spent on other more restorative processes.
Some easy tips to implement to slow down your pace of eating (and increase your enjoyment and satisfaction of eating).
Put your knife and fork down between each bite.
Try not to load up your fork or spoon with another mouthful until you have completely finished chewing the swallowing the previous one.
YOU’RE TOO STRESSED TO DIGEST
What many people don’t know about the gut is it has its very own nervous system (often referred to as our second brain).
Have you ever wondered why when you’re nervous you might get butterflies in your tummy or feel more urgency to go to the bathroom? You’ve heard the term “gut feeling”? but have you ever realised what it actually means?
Sress, whether it be emotional or physical, can irritate the nerves of our digestive tract which can affect people in different ways – for some it might be bloating, for others they might experience it as diarrhoea or constipation.
When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, our body releases stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol), which communicate to every single cell in our body that now is not the time to focus on digestion since there are other more important processes to be focused on.
These hormones are responsible for our body’s “fight or flight” response, which was historically designed to allow us to run away from a tiger trying to eat you.
When your life is in danger, digestion isn’t a priority so digestive processes such as digestive enzyme production and secretion into the digestive tract are down-regulated which means you have fewer enzymes to work on breaking down your food and a process known as peristalsis which is the pulse or squeeze-like movement of the digestive tract that allows your food to travel down your intestines, this gets shut down.
YOU’RE CONSUMING TOO MUCH CAFFEINE
Caffeine is known to stimulate a bowel movement so if you find your digestive system is moving a little too quickly, you may like to consider your caffeine intake.
Caffeine also triggers the body to release the stress hormone ‘adrenaline’ which can hinder our body’s ability to digest food optimally so you may want to pay attention to how caffeine affects you and your digestion – it’s very much an individual thing, for some caffeine makes them feel great, for others it can negatively impact their digestion and nervous system.
Paying attention to your body’s cues will allow you to enhance your ability to incorporate the changes that are best for you and make the best food choices for YOU.
If you are experiencing continued digestive challenges then I encourage you to seek support from an experienced healthcare profession because getting to the root cause of your health issues, and whilst it takes an initial bit of upfront energy, it can hugely impact your health and happiness on a long-term basis so it’s worth the energy and time investment.
That’s all from Tom and me today.
Have a great weekend and email me on email@example.com if you would like to be considered for a spot on my Online Group Workouts, which run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and I’ll be in touch to find out more about your goals and current exercise routine.
Jess and Tom x