Many of us are accustomed to giving thanks before we eat a meal. Did you ever consider the enormous benefit this practice can have on your physical wellbeing?
As I said in my “Giving Thanks” blog, gratitude is an anecdote for anxiety. Anxiety and stress can contribute to an array of health problems.
When we are anxious or stressed, our body is tense. We are in what is called a sympathetic state, or “fight or flight” state.
Our brain is telling us that there is danger, and we need to be on guard. We must be poised for an emergency!
The adrenals release cortisol, a stress hormone, and in situations of extreme stress they release epinephrine (aka: adrenaline). Epinephrine, among other roles, signals the body to increase heart rate and blood sugar levels and direct blood away from the stomach toward the muscles to deal with the so called “emergency.” Metabolism slows down, fat gets stored, and we may experience indigestion and bowel problems.
To properly digest our food, we must be in a parasympathetic state, also known as “rest and digest.” This state controls body processes during ordinary situations. Basically, it conserves and restores. It slows the heart rate and decreases blood pressure and stimulates the digestive tract to do its job.
Digestion depends on a multitude of cascading events that begin in the brain and continue all the way down to elimination. If we do not take this process seriously, we develop digestive issues, including gut permeability, which in turn can lead to autoimmune conditions, allergies, and a whole host of physiological and psychological disorders.
Equally important to a good diet is our body’s ability to absorb, breakdown and utilize the nutrients found in our food. Every cell that makes up every tissue that makes up every organ depends on our body’s ability to properly digest our food to continue functioning.
And essential to proper digestion is getting into that parasympathetic state. What better way to get into that state than to take a few moments to express gratitude for what we are about to eat!
Take a few deep breaths to begin to calm yourself down. Observe what you are about to eat. How does it look? How does it smell? What are the colors like? What loving hands had a part in getting it from farm to table?
Now give thanks for what you observed and for God’s provision.
Perhaps this is already a practice of yours. If so, continue it. This is the first step to eating mindfully and slowly!
What else can you do to practice mindful and slow eating? Here are some great tips. Try as many as you can, when you can.
- Sit down at the table instead of standing
- Avoid eating on the run or in the car
- Avoid multi-tasking. Turn off cell phones, computers, television, etc.
- Lightly rub the area just behind and below your earlobes. This helps stimulate the vagus nerve, which sends signals throughout the digestive tract. If you like using essential oils, you can rub using one or two drops of any of the oils for relaxation and digestion listed in the tables below.
- Observe your food as you eat. What are the textures, tastes and temperature like? Savor what you are eating like a fine wine.
- Chew, chew, chew your food. Chew each bite 25 to 30 times, making sure the food has been liquified before swallowing. Practice putting your fork down between bites. If need be, sing the alphabet song in your head from A to Z to give yourself sufficient time to chew.
- Whenever possible, enjoy your meal with family or friends. This can increase gratitude, mindfulness, and relaxedness.
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Our nutrient needs and the ratio of macronutrients and micronutrients can vary widely from day to day and person to person. But one thing is essential to each of us every day – good digestion.
The slower and more mindfully you eat the deeper you will experience nourishment and satisfaction.
So why not begin this practice of eating mindfully and slowly this week?
You can begin with doing so just one meal a day. Or if you feel that is not feasible, then start with one meal this week.
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Let it be known. I am far from observing this practice at every meal. I often find myself starting to inhale my food before I sit down, forgetting to give thanks, or getting up several times during a meal.
Yet, I notice the more I practice it, the better my gut health and overall health are. Food doesn’t sit in my stomach like a rock, I am calmer, and my bowels work better. And, I have given myself the gift of enjoying my food and feeling satiated and I am more focused on the task at hand afterward.
I would love to hear any tips or testimonials you may have on this subject.
Be well and be well nourished!
Peace and grace,
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Not-So-Fun Fact: Did you know that 90% of people on acid blockers actually have low stomach acid? And that taking these inhibitors perpetuates the problem? But by taking the steps mentioned above, they could begin to address and correct the root cause?
 Jonathon V. Wright, M.D. and Lane Lenard, PhD; Why Stomach Acid is good for You; The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc, 2001
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Essential Oils for Parasympathetic:
|Bergamot||Uplifting and relaxing. Sweet and fruity aroma.|
|Bule Tansy||Helps combat anger and negative emotions.|
|Cedarwood||Calms the spirit and releases nervous tension, anger and stress.|
|Clary Sage||Quiets the mind, euphoric.|
|Copaiba||Mentally uplifting and relaxing.|
|Lavender||Calms, relaxes and balances. Eases anger and frustration.|
|Lime||Helps to relieve irritation, worry and stress. Helps to ground and center the body.|
|Orange||Elevates the mind and body to bring joy and peace. Combats depression to bring about a sense of security.|
|Patchouli||High in sesquiterpenes that stimulate the limbic center of the brain. Re-establishes mental and emotional equilibrium and energizes the mind. Promotes grounding and helps the emotions to clarify thoughts, allowing the mind to relax and let go of jealousies, obsessions and insecurities.|
|Tangerine||Aids in sedating and calming, helps with anxiety and nervousness.|
Essential Oils for Digestion:
|Anise||Antispasmodic, antiseptic, stimulates and increases bile flow. Helps calm and relieve spastic colitis, indigestion and intestinal pain.|
|Fennel||Antiseptic and stimulating to the GI system. Antispasmodic, useful for flatulence and nausea, promotes digestion and prevents fermentation.|
|Ginger||Traditionally combats nausea and GI fermentation. Antispasmodic, antiseptic and helps calm indigestion.|
|Lemongrass||Documented powerful antifungal properties. Vasodilating, anti-inflammatory, and improves digestion.|
|Patchouli||Powerful digestive aid that alleviates nausea. Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and can reduce fluid retention.|
|Peppermint||Combats parasites. Relaxes muscles in the intestinal tract and promotes peristalsis. Kills bacteria, yeast, fungi, and mold.|
|Tarragon||Antiseptic, combats intestinal parasites and urinary tract infection.|
Information in these two charts is courtesy of Becky Webb, http://beckyjwebb.com/