Don’t Eat Like This!

At lunch do you “grab a quick sandwich?” Do you “sit quietly” and sort through your emails while eating?

I was on a course recently and we were discussing the digestive process and how problems can occur. I was shocked, as was everyone in the room, when we did one test to see how relaxed we were and whether the digestive system was ready to do its work.

We were using a machine to register which state the body was in (either fight/flight or rest/digest). We were all sat “relaxed” listening to the information in a nice, calm room in a small group.

You’d expect that to be relaxing and not a problem if it was also time to eat.

Well, we put the machine on one of the people in the room and he registered as in the fight/flight state, that signals he’s not prepared to eat and digest.

It took a few minutes of mindful breathing and targeted relaxation before he registered a relaxed, rest/digest state.

Why is this important?

Your entire digestive tract is stimulated (switched on) by the vagus nerve. It’s a cranial nerve that is active when you are in the rest/digest state and inactive when you are in the fight/flight state.

Unless you are very calm and relaxed (not answering emails / grabbing a quick sandwich on the run) you are not going to be secreting all the digestive juices it takes to digest your food properly.

If, like the guy in the example above, you are in the fight/flight state when you eat, you don’t activate the cephalic phase of digestion. This is very important because the stomach then releases the acid to begin the breakdown of the food you eat and the pancreas secretes the enzymes needed to convert this food into usable molecules.

So what is happening if you eat when in a stressed state?

Very simply the food will go into the stomach, you’ll have delayed emptying of the stomach and the food will not be broken down sufficiently.

This can lead to proteins putrifying and carbohydrates fermenting. Not a nice thought, but perhaps why we have such a prevalence with fungal infections (fungal nail, skin issues etc) and parasite infections.

If you are in a position where you are feeling rushed, don’t have time to get away from your desk and sit in a relaxed place to eat or the dreaded eating on the run. It’s worth considering skipping that meal.

There’ll be plenty of body fat already on your body to provide energy to keep you going for a while. When you have got the space to sit and eat properly your digestive system will be empty and ready to receive the food in a much healthier state.

However, before you start skipping every lunch and then run into blood sugar issues and uncontrolled weight and muscle loss, I’m by no means saying this is an optimal strategy. Simply “a better option” should you find yourself in this position from time to time.

I’d love to know your thoughts.