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Ask the Naturopath: How Can I Eat More Mindfully for Better Health?

by Oasis Wellness Partners on May 5, 2019       Oasis Partners - Ask the Naturopath

It’s National Nutrition Month, and we have a blog post by our Naturopath, Dr. Peter Knight!

Did you know that worry and anxiety generate a stress response that can interfere with the absorption of nutrients? In order to fully digest your food, getting the body into the right state is of crucial importance. Dr. Peter Knight, Oasis’s Naturopathic doctor, explains why:

When the stress response is activated (sympathetic) digestion shuts down, whereas when the relaxation response is activated (parasympathetic) digestion is promoted. If you have had a hard day, doing some conscious breathing dissipates the stress response and promotes digestion.”

Often, being aware is the first step. For optimum nutritional metabolism, when you eat, eat. The cephalic phase digestive response is stimulated by our thoughts and senses before you even take a bite, so the less aware you are of a meal as you eat, the more the brain will signal you to consume excess food, and the less aware you are of the food you are eating the more likely you are to eat food that is not very good. Becuase there is a delay in how long it takes for your gut to signal your brain that you are full, so eating slowly is important to let your body know when the body has had enough.

Another important part of digestion is the awareness of pleasure. A pleasurable experience of a meal enhances nutrient absorption, while a non-pleasurable experience can decrease nutrient absorption. Why is this? Because pleasure catalyzes the relaxation response, promoting parasympathetic dominance and enhancing digestion. This means that eating food that is “good for you” but that you don’t like may be doing yourself a disservice.

Thirdly, how we think about food can impact how we digest it. Therefore, negative thoughts about food directly inhibit digestion, while positive thoughts about food enhance digestion via these same pathways.

So, what you can do to promote optimum digestion and nutrient absorption?

  1. Before you eat check in. Take time to assess your hunger. Are you actually hungry? What are you hungry for? What is your stress level? Are you bored? Are you sad? Why are you eating?
  2. Commit to providing yourself the gift of time at each meal
    • If you eat breakfast in 5 minutes, bump it up to 10. If you take 10 minutes, bump it up to 15.
    • Try to give yourself at least 30 minutes for lunch and dinner.
  3. Put your fork or spoon down between bites. Don’t pick it up again until you have enjoyed or swallowed what you already have in your mouth.
  4. Chew your food. Try to get 30 chews out of each bite. Take time to enjoy the flavors and textures in your moth before you swallow.
  5. When you eat, eat! Chose not to answer the cell phone, the home phone, the work phone, pagers, emails, or to engage in any form of work while you dine. Chose not to watch T.V., listen to the radio, read the paper, or surf the internet while you dine.
  6. Be aware of what you are eating. Engage your senses. Remember to look at, smell, taste, and perhaps even listen to your food.
  7. At every meal, snack, or any time food is about to pass across your lips, ask yourself “Am I about to eat under stress? Is my mind in high gear?’ If the answer is yes, pause and then take ten slow deep breaths.
    • Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor.
    • Eyes can be opened or closed.
    • Inhale slowly
    • Hold your breath for a moment.
    • Exhale slowly and slightly longer than the inhalation.
    • Repeat this cycle ten times.
    • While you are eating, if your mind starts to wander, or you feel stress creeping back, or you just want to increase you digestive power, put your fork down, and take a breath.

To learn even more, call Dr. Peter Knight at the Oasis office (207) 883-5549,

or you can reach him in Portland

222 St. John Street, Suite 236, Portland ME 04105

(207) 805-1129

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