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Expert GuidanceStress and Digestion

Stress and Digestion

Dr. Will Cole — a functional medicine expert — shares tips for making sure stress doesn’t get in the way of properly digesting your next meal.

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We've all been there, grabbing a snack while we're on the go or eating a meal in front of the TV, computer, or phone. We know eating while stressed isn't ideal, but what can we really do about it? I'm Dr. Will Cole, a leading functional medicine expert. Chronic stress is all too common today, but just because it is common doesn't make it normal. Our bodies are not meant to be stressed all the time and this ongoing stress can take a toll on our digestion. Today, I'm going to go through some ways to make sure that mealtime is a relief from stress rather than adding to it. When we are calm and relaxed, we are in a parasympathetic state, also known as rest and digest mode. When we eat food, we wanna make sure we are in this state as the muscles in the digestive system are relaxed and ready to do the work of digesting our food properly. However, when the body is stressed, it is in a sympathetic state, also known as fight or flight mode. This mode was the ideal state for our bodies when we had to worry about physical threats, like lions and bears. But today our body responds this way to text, emails, and general daily stressors. And even though we don't need to run from these things, our blood still flows away from the gut towards the limbs to help us run faster. Eating while in fight or flight mode makes it a lot harder for the body to properly break down and absorb nutrients from food as blood flow is critical for digestive muscle function and nutrient absorption. So today I'm going to walk you through a few simple tips for making sure stress doesn't get in the way of properly digesting your next meal. The first thing you can do to promote healthy digestion is breathe. Deep belly breathing helps your body move from a sympathetic state of heightened stress to a parasympathetic state by promoting something called vagal tone, or the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the main control for your parasympathetic nervous system and tells your body that it's safe to relax. Not only will you feel calmer, you will also be better able to digest your food, leading to fewer uncomfortable digestive symptoms like bloating, so take a few moments to practice breathing before digging into your next meal. Rushing through your meal doesn't do much to facilitate your parasympathetic rest and digest mode. While food should be used as fuel, it should also be savored and enjoyed. Take time to sit down and really use all five senses when you eat. Notice the colors smells, sounds, and textures of your food and how it tastes when all the ingredients come together in your mouth. Eating slowly also allows your body to recognize as soon as it is full, so you don't overeat and feel too full or bloated afterwards. It's...


TypeExpert Guidance
Duration6 min

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