Newsflash: Your stomach doesn’t do multi-tasking!

Kim Adams

BA (Hons), MSc, rBANT, rCNHC, AFMCP

August 10, 2021

Are you a multi-tasker? In our busy, modern lives it always seems like we’re juggling three things at once (minimum). We rush from one thing to another and food can often get forgotten. Grab and go lunches and snacks are available everywhere. Even if you always prepare your own food it’s so tempting to eat whilst catching up on email, or social media, or that latest box set…. Problem is your gut won’t thank you for it.

Digestion starts long before you take that first bite of your lunchtime sandwich. Have you ever popped into the supermarket (hungry) and the smell of fresh bread immediately makes your mouth water? How do you feel when you look at a colourful spread of dishes? When we are looking at – or smelling – appetising foods our brain picks up these cues, we attune ourselves to our hunger and our digestive process kicks in. Our stomach acid and enzymes will start to build ready to help breakdown and support our digestion. Skip these steps and we risk indigestion, bloating and gas.

That’s not the only challenge for multi-taskers. If our mind isn’t focused on our food we have a tendency to rush, we don’t chew our food properly. This means we are skipping another important step in our digestion. Digestion doesn’t start when the food hits our stomach. We have digestive enzymes in our saliva. When we are focused on our food, we tend to eat more slowly and chew more. This gives those enzymes the chance to do their job and start to break down our food for us.

Why does this matter? Most of us are carrying a lot of stress around on a day to day basis. When we are stressed our body enters fight or flight mode. This means it focuses on what is important for immediate survival and diverts resource from less essential processes. Put bluntly, if your body thinks you need to escape a bear it is going to feed energy to your muscles to escape – not your stomach to help you digest that sandwich!

We may not be able to do much in the short term to alleviate stress but we can make some simple changes to support our digestion and make sure we get the most from our food.

  • Remember that digestion starts before you take your first bite. Take the time to appreciate what you are about to eat
  • Find time away from distractions to eat your food. Arrange lunch with a colleague, friend or family member to help you stick to this intention
  • You don’t need to count how many times you chew every bite but do tune in to how quickly you are eating and whether you are really chewing your food
  • Give yourself five minutes. Whether you take a stroll round the block or just focus on your breath don’t undo your good work with a ‘bolt and go’ approach. Give your body a headstart by pausing to relax at the end of your meal

At Dr Indra Specialist Functional Medicine Practice our Nutritional Therapists will look not just at what you eat but how you eat too. We have a passion for tasty, healthy food that nourishes and we want to share that with you.