not what you're eating but how you're eating?

IBS is multifactorial and effects a lot of us. It’s often multifactorial and can be caused by anything from food intolerances to parasites but not many people link their stress levels and the way they eat to what’s going on in their gut.

I’ve always inhaled my food - it’s something that’s hardwired, and it wasn’t until I started learning about the body and digestion and being more connected with myself and my body that I realised how much how I was eating and not always what I was eating was contributing to my digestive problems.

Mindful eating takes practice and like anything takes daily awareness to start to unpick conditioning -it's something I still have to work really hard at and I still sometimes get half way through my lunch on busy days before realising I’ve not even registering I’m eating a meal.

For efficient digestion, our brain needs to send a message to our gut that we are relaxed, it's safe to direct energy and resources to digesting our food and the body can switch to rest of digest and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.

What is happening more often than not is that we are not relaxed at meal times (or anytime for that matter) and are eating at our desk whist working. Instead of being relaxed and ready to digest, our body is getting our stress response, perceiving a more immediate danger, and blood is being directed away from our gut, our digestive juices are restricted and digestion is pushed to the bottom of the pile on terms of priorities. 

Lots of people are ‘on’ and stressed most of the time and don’t give themselves time to unwind and as well as having a negative impact on all systems of the body, the digestive system often bears the brunt of this chronic stress.

If you work in a stressful environment, only eat at your desk and have IBS symptoms, trying to eat more mindfully could help elevate some of the problem:

Here are some tips to try!

  1. Step away from your desk to eat your food, put your phone down and be really strict with this. Now its spring - get outside away from your desk
  2. Take a deep breath, this will help you come into the present moment and calm the nervous system. Look closely at the detail of the plants etc around you and at what you’re about to eat and focus
  3. Taste every mouthful and be conscious that you’re eating
  4. CHEW everything carefully - this is super important as your gut has to break down what your gnashers don’t and swallowing unchewed food is a big contributing factor to IBS. Take a couple of deep breaths between every mouthful
  5. Make sure you leave at least a three hour gap between eating your evening meal and bed
  6. Try to make sure you spend some time every day doing something relaxing where you can just be in the present moment - where you’re not stimulated or distracted and your mind isn’t time travelling with thoughts - go for a walk, take a bath, do a yoga class, meditate - this will help you start to be more mindful in your every day life and make mindful eating much easier!
emily barker