How to Eat Mindfully and Heal Your Gut – in 6 Steps by Kathie Swift
Ancient Ayurveda and Chinese medicine honored the belly as the seat of wisdom, intelligence and the root of good health. Fast-forward a few thousand years and, not surprisingly, the ancients had it right. Turns out, a number of recent studies have confirmed that our brains and bellies – or our minds and digestion – are intimately connected, consulting and communicating with each other virtually ‘round the clock. So all those common phrases like "butterflies in your stomach," "gut feelings," "gut-wrenching," or "going with your gut," are much more than just figures of speech – they’re how we experience the gut/brain connection that impacts our lives everyday.
Your brain and your gut are intimately connected; in fact, our GI (gastrointestinal) tract, like the brain in your head, is packed with neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine – which is why the gut is often referred to as "the second brain."
Too much stress and anxiety can upset the balance of bacteria in our gut, which contributes to the IBS-type problems that many of us are familiar with when we feel like we're under the gun. And when cortisol, our primary stress hormone, goes into overdrive, that actually promotes fat gain around the middle, the last thing we want. If a stressed-out brain can make life miserable for the belly by upsetting digestion and adding on pounds, the good news is that with a little training, you can use your mind to help heal the damage.
A good place to start is with mindful eating. When we eat mindfully, we give the "cephalic" (from the Greek, "in the head") digestion system the time it needs to properly digest food without irritation or inflammation, engaging with your body's inner sense of satiety or fullness, and spacing meals so that the gut has time to cleanse itself and prepare for the next intake of food (no more "grazing" throughout the day!)
One of my favorite mindfulness practices does double-duty, lowering stress hormone levels (which can wreak havoc on digestion) and trains you to focus on the slow, sensual experience of eating and really tasting (in great detail) your food. It's also a simple technique that you can do at any meal, to support appetite control by giving your satiety hormones the time they need to kick in and curb over-eating. Here's how to eat mindfully – and support the health of your gut at every meal:
1. To start, take three relaxing breaths.
2. Tale a moment to think about and acknowledge your food.
3. Look at your food.
4. Take in the aromas.
5. Really chew your food thoroughly before swallowing.
6. Rest your hands in your lap every few bites and take another 3 relaxing breaths and continue to eat slowly and consciously.
For more ideas on how to create a vibrant diet, a healthy gut and microbiome (the bacteria that live in your gut), check out my book The Swift Diet: 4 Weeks to Mend the Belly, Lose the Weight and Get Rid of the Bloat.
Adapted from Kathie’s original article which was featured on DigestiveWellness.com
-with additional reporting by Kate Doyle Hooper