Not only what we eat, but how we eat can have a direct effect on the health of our digestive system. We’ve been taught that lots of water and a healthy diet high in fiber will keep things moving as they should. But most of us don’t give enough thought to how we eat – which can be equally as important.
First and foremost, we need to slow down when we eat. Eating too fast causes us to rush through chewing which is a very important step in the digestive process. And scarfing down our food makes it very easy for us to overeat – the result being uncomfortable bloating and acid reflux.
Digestion starts in the mouth before we even take our first bite. Just thinking about food, seeing it, and smelling it increases our production of saliva. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that begin to break our food down chemically. Pair this with the physical break down of food from our teeth and the digestive process is well underway. By keeping our food in our mouth longer, we can take a lot of pressure off of other digestive organs further down the digestive process.
Take a full twenty minutes to eat a meal. Force yourself to slow down by taking a break between forkfuls. Avoid cutting your food into small pieces ahead of time so that the food remains in your mouth longer while you chew it.
Eating too fast often causes us to overeat. It takes up to twenty minutes for our brain to get the signal that we are full. If we consume everything on our plate within five minutes, we will very likely eat right past the point when we are physically full. Take a full twenty minutes to eat your next meal – you may be surprised at how little your body actually needs to feel satiated.
Overeating and acid reflux go hand-in-hand. The more we eat, the more stomach juices are made; the more stomach juices present, the better odds they will find their way up to our esophagus. Also, when we eat too much, our stomach becomes distended which can disrupt the function of the esophageal sphincter (a ring of muscles that keeps stomach acids out of the esophagus).
Pay close attention to how your body feels while eating and do not be concerned with what is left on your plate. If you feel satisfied, put the fork down. If you go beyond that point, you will end up consuming too much. To make portioning your food easier, plan to eat smaller meals, more often. Instead of three large meals every six hours, try five or six meals every three hours.
Avoid eating alone, watching television, reading, working, or letting you mind wander while you are eating. Try to focus on each bite of food and think about how much enjoyment each one is giving you. By chewing your food well, eating slowly and paying attention to your body, you are taking those important, yet often overloooked steps toward maintaining a healthy digestion.