Home cooked food

Mindful Eating

Many of us eat for comfort when we are stressed or tired, and can lose track of how physical hunger and fullness feels. We are simply not aware of when our body is telling us to start eating and when we should stop. This is not surprising as we are constantly surrounded by easily available food, at the gas station, from vending machines, or from fast food drive-throughs.

How and when we eat is as important as what we eat.

We no longer ask ourselves ‘am I hungry?’ or ‘am I full? Instead, we reach for easily available food whenever we have the urge. So firstly, we must recognise, when we are physically hungry, not just when we have the urge to eat.

We can relearn to listen to our bodies and their natural cues. I say ‘relearn’ as we are born with an awareness of these cues. You can’t force a baby or toddler to eat when they are not hungry. To break the habit of eating mindlessly, we need to pay attention whenever we have the urge to eat.

We can use the Hunger Scale to measure our true hunger and judge when it is time to eat. For most people, a good time to eat is when they are at 3 or below, and a good time to stop is when they reach a 6.

The scale can be used to see when we eat when we are not hungry. It’s important that we try not to judge ourselves. Eating is an emotional as well as a physcial thing. Instead, we can reflect and ask ourselves ‘why did I eat that whole bar of chocolate when I wasn’t hungry?’. It may be because I feel I’m stressed after a hard day at work. We can then reflect on what we can do instead of eating at that time…

Mindful Eating Scale

How to fix your gut by addressing our stress

I got sick a few years ago, with IBS type symptoms, that turned out to be due to parasites in my gut (Blastocystis Hominis and Dientamoeba Fragilis to name names!).

Nowadays, I’ve cleared up the parasites but that doesn’t mean I don’t get gut symptoms anymore.

Occasionally I get a flare-up of symptoms, and what I’ve noticed is this happens at the times when I’m the most stressed out, even when my diet is still good. And this happens for many other people.

We can have our diet dialed so that it’s perfect, and we can be exercising regularly and getting enough sleep, but if we are constantly stressed out, this can be causing us problems.

And this is backed up by research in mice, that have found stress affects the gut microbiota to the same degree as a poor diet.

From what we know, when we are stressed out and in flight or fight mode, blood is redirected from our gut and digestion to the muscles so we are ready to run away from a perceived threat. In the body’s view, digestion is just not important at that time. As the gut is serviced by a multitude of neurons, it makes perfect sense that stress and our modern hectic lives affects our gut.  

What this means is that if we are our stressed, our attempts to treat small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), parasites, or IBS may not be effective, or they appear to work, but symptoms soon return after treatment. We need to address our stress to balance our gut microbiota and the messages the gut sends to the brain via the gut-brain axis.

And yes, this can be hard!

It can be easier to pop a pill, or change your diet, rather than address stress which can seem to be just a result of a modern lifestyle. We may need to take a step back, and deeply see how we relate to ourselves and all aspects of our lives.

Everything is Information

Our brains are constantly monitoring all aspects of our physiology, including our breath hormones, nervous system and gut, as well as the outside world. Every situation we find ourselves in and every thought we have affects our body’s chemistry on a molecular level.

The brain is always calculating am I safe or am I under threat

 

One of the big issues with the way we treat stress today is that we tackle it from only one angle. Whereas our stress levels are built up by many small stressful events throughout the day. We can’t tackle overwhelm from work stress, solely by meditating for 15 minutes in the morning or having a glass of wine after work.

It is better to work with stress in all its forms: psychological, emotional, technological, dietary, physical and chemical stress.