BLOATING: ARE YOUR EATING HABITS TO BLAME?
We need to be in a parasympathetic state when we eat. Rest and digest.This means you’re calm, blood flow is being directed to your gut and your digestive enzymes are being produced and secreted at an excellent rate, ready to digest all the food thrown its way. This needs to happen so that you can properly digest all of your food and absorb all the liberated nutrients – your body relies on them to function, otherwise your body is scrounging up what it can and does the best with the minimal tools it has at its disposal. It’s excellent at making do short term to keep you functioning like an apparent well-oiled machine. Long term though all those short cuts are not doing you any favours and that’s when chronic disease creep in. Unfortunately these days, we eat on the run or eat while attempting to multi-task. Although this is time saving, you aren’t getting the most out of your food.
This is because you’re in the opposite mode – sympathetic state: fight, flight or freeze.During a sympathetic response, blood is shunted from your gut and sent to your heart and muscles so they’re ready to run, your breathing and heart rate increases, and digestive enzyme production is shut down – because hey, eating isn’t a priority right now, running away from that scary monster is. These factors are brilliant when it comes to running away from a tiger. Just not when you want to eat. The problem is, your body gets a one-stop stress response. Meaning it produces the same stress response no matter if the stimuli is you running late for work or if a lion is chasing you. Stress is stress – cortisol gets produced and it has the same physiological action on the body every time it gets spewed out by your adrenals – it doesn’t care if food is just sluggishly sitting in your bowels being left to ferment and fester.
When you are chucking down your food, or watching TV and not paying attention to eating, you are bypassing that first vital step: turning off the sympathetic switch and turning on your parasympathetic mode.
No parasympathetic mode: no digestive enzyme production.Without the necessary digestive enzymes to break down your food, your still intact food happily carries on throughout your digestive tract, passing your stomach undigested and your small intestines undigested and reaches your happy little gut microbes sitting in your large intestine. With a properly functioning gut, only resistant starches found in fibrous food should reach your large bowels and feed your happy little microbes. So when these other food particles that should have been broken down way back in the small intestine reach your gut microbes, your gut microbes go crazy and thank you for their feast by munching away on all this foreign food and produce a by-product such as hydrogen gas.
The problem with hydrogen gas?For starters it is a large molecule so it takes up a lot of room in your bowels. It’s healthy to produce some (when your gut microbes eat their normal fibrous foods) but if they keep producing more and more, your bowel has to expand and ta-da! You now have bloating. Hydrogen also has a propensity to speed up your transit time, so this means you may need to be rushing to the toilet to empty your bowels 3+ times per day. More prone to sluggish stools? Well you may have an excess of methane-producing bacteria. They gobble up four hydrogen molecules to make a much smaller methane molecule. This may seem great when they’re gobbling up all those extra hydrogen molecules from your poorly digested food, and help to create more room in your gut and effectively reduce your bloating….but methane does have a propensity to reduce your stool transit time, ultimately clogging you up.
And clogged bowels can also then lead to bloating.Your gut bugs are pretty fussy eaters and primarily only want fibrous food, so when all this non-fibrous food reaches your large intestines, the wrong type of bacteria end up having the feast and proliferating instead. This then potentially leads to a dysbiotic gut, which is a story for another day. Long term, this can start to produce ongoing gut issues and the poor absorption of all your nutrients ends up impacting energy and neurotransmitter production (happiness, calmness and motivation) leading to depression, anxiety and low drive, and essential nutrients for glowing skin and hair aren’t there, let alone every other enzymatic reaction in your body. Now this isn’t all doom and gloom, there are super simple ways to promote that parasympathetic state, switch on digestion and get those foods fully digested so you can reap all the nutritional benefit and feel amazing long term!
So if you are guilty of eating on the run, shoveling your food down or basically multitasking while food is going in your gob – then try these 4 easy hacks to getting those digestive juices flowing!
1. EAT MINDFULLY
This is as simple as sitting down with your food and being mindfully aware of every spoonful going into your mouth. The taste, the texture and chew thoughtfully. You will be amazed at how much more you can taste and as a bonus all your digestive enzymes start flowing!
2. SMELL YOUR FOOD
That’s right, take a big waft of those delicious aromas. Have you ever found you can smell something delicious and suddenly your mouth is watering in saliva? That’s because the receptors in your nose pick up the scent from food and kick start your digestive enzymes, ready for the feast it’s about to consume.
3. MUNCH SOMETHING BITTER
This may make you scrunch up your nose, but bitter receptors on your tongue are like the golden key to getting those digestive enzymes flowing. This is why some people feel less indigestion with apple cider vinegar before meals. You can simply munch on dark leafy green prior to a big meal which activates the same pathways. Or grab some of that super tasty bitter herbals from your naturopath if you’re feeling lazy or need to kickstart your own digestive enzymes again – but don’t say I didn’t warn you! At the very least those around you will get a kick out of watching your face scrunch up in disgust.
That’s right, I’m giving you full permission to bellow out a tune. Singing has been found to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the main nerve responsible for receiving the stimuli that its time to eat and sending out a signal to your digestive tract to start pumping out all of your digestive enzymes. But you need to be reaching different pitches: so go smooth with a low baritone before hitting that high note.If you are someone who often gets to the end of their meal and then struggles to remember what they ate or how they even got there, than start to include some of the above tips into your daily eating routine. The long term benefit of digesting all of your food and reaping off the nutritional benefits out of them won’t just help with your bloating and indigestion, but with the optimal function of your body too. Still being haunted by your gut? The gut can be a mysterious and wondrous thing, with many avenues for dysfunction to occur – it does hold 2kg of microbes after all which are all doing very specific and important tasks to keep your body tip-top! A Naturopath may be what you need to provide you with an individualised gut plan to rid you of your bloating, control your bowels, and get you feeling pretty fabulous!