There’s a saying in functional medicine, it goes like this disease begins in the gut.
And for the most part, that’s true. A lot of our diseases and difficulties with our health originate… What happens in our gut, and a lot of times that is sort of a self-sabotage mechanism where we are eating the wrong things or digesting or unable to digest certain foods, and the barrier to the lining that stretches from our mouths all the way down to the bottom, there’s an endothelial lining that protects the body from the things passing through.
The nutrition has to be digested into cell-size chunks to feed the cells. That’s what actually gets nourishment in your body is the cells. We eat food, but the food is not going to make it into the cell. It has to go through a digestive process and become available to the cells to digest.
Just as our skin protects the outside of our body from a lot of environmental damage and pollution, the endothelial lining is very important, and when that gets breached, that’s where a lot of trouble happens and disease ensues. So the antidote to disease beginning in the gut is to take care of our guts, and we do that by eating and feasting appropriately and properly. There are a few simple rules.
Number one, slow down. Slow it down. Absolutely. If there’s stress, if there’s a big rush, if there’s a lot of worry or anxiety, if there’s any kind of mental stress like that, the balance between the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system will not allow you to digest your food.
Why? Because if adrenaline is high and cortisol is high, you are seeking to escape some danger, whether it’s a fear, whether it’s a worry, whether you are rallying your forces in order to fight against a predator.
Fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system, parasympathetic nervous system. It’s one central nervous system with two counterbalancing sides. When we eat, we need to be in parasympathetic mode, which means we need to calm the heck down, slow down, relax, stop, take a break, breath, and then eat slowly.
Part of eating slowly is to chew. Some teachers teach that you should chew your food 30 times. It seems excessive, but believe it or not, the digestion through the gut will be a lot better if you do.
Slowing down is the number one rule. Chewing is number two.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that you’re full. If you’re eating in a big, big rush, you could very easily overeat in a five or 10 minute period when going through the drive-through and you’re racing off to the next appointment and you’re eating a burger and eating some fries and drinking the milkshake. Yeah.
That’s going to be tough to digest, and it’s going to be really, really difficult for your brain to know that you really actually have enough food. If you eat slowly and you drink slowly, don’t drink too much during meals, but you will maintain the equilibrium between your brain and your gut.
Actually, the signals from the diaphragm, which controls the parasympathetic/sympathetic nervous system, that’s signaling your brain, and there’s a chemical that tells your brain that you’ve had enough. It’s a good rule to get up from the meal when you’re 80% or 85% of full. Allow that extra 15 or 20 minutes for you to reach maximum saturation without having to eat more.
When you decide it’s time to eat, make that the priority. Don’t be writing out checks or paying bills or watching the news or doing other things that are going to distract you from what you’re actually focused on and what you want to do, which is to eat. If you eat slowly and conscientiously like I’m describing, you will get a lot more pleasure out of the food.
You can taste the different flavors and you can savor those different flavors and make the meal that much more enjoyable. If you’re able to have company while you’re eating all the better. You can have a bite. You chew 15, 20, 30 times, swallow with your fork down, have some conversation, interact, engage, and then another bite. It becomes a process and it becomes enjoyable.